Sandwich Islands, or Hawaiian Islands

Sandwich Islands, Or Hawaiian Islands, The most northerly cluster of the Polynesian Archipelago, containing twelve islands. The chain extends about 360 miles from southeast to northwest, and lies in the Pacific Ocean between lat. 18° 55' and 22° 20' N., and long. 154° 55' and 160° 15' W. The largest island is Hawaii, containing 4040 square miles; but Oahu, more central and having a good harbor, is the seat of government and the commercial center. The population of the islands was estimated by Cook at 400,000 — doubtless an exaggeration. In 1832 the official census gave 130,313, in 1850, 84,165; in 1860, 69,800; and in 1872, 56,899. This decrease is due to many causes, of which those now principally active may be traced to their contact with the whites. "Before missionary operations commenced, the people were, if not in the lowest state of barbarism in which men are ever found, yet certainly in a very low state of intellectual, social, and moral debasement. With no written language; with no comfortable dwellings; with very little clothing; with the family constitution in ruins, unmitigated licentiousness universal, and every wild passion indulged without restraint; the people were 'a nation of drunkards,' with no laws or courts of justice. The people of all ranks were much under the influence of superstitious fears, and their religion, in connection with the cruel rites of idol worship, was in a great measure a tabu system — i.e. a system of religious prohibitions and consecrations, which had extended itself very widely, and had become exceedingly burdensome under the direction of kings and priests who use the system to accomplish their own purposes" (Newcomb). Vancouver, who arrived with Cook in 1778, and returned in 1792, and again in 1794, made sincere attempts to enlighten the natives. His instructions were not forgotten, and, by a spontaneous movement, the whole nation rose up to destroy their idols and temples (1819-1820). The first missionaries to these islands were from America — Hiram Bingham and Asa Thurston, of Andover Theological Seminary. They arrived at Kailua, April 4, 1820, only a short time after the decisive battle had been fought which had subdued the party supporting idolatry. In 1822 the language was reduced to writing, since which time more than 200 works, mostly educational and religious, have been published in Hawaiian. The total number of Protestant missionaries sent to the islands, clerical and lay, including their wives, is 156 — at an expense, up to 1869, of $1,220,000. The whole number of persons admitted to the Hawaiian Protestant churches up to 1873, inclusive, was 67,792; and the total membership of the same churches in 1873 was 12,283. In 1826, John Alexius Aug. Bachelot was appointed apostolic prefect of the islands, and arrived at Honolulu, July 7, 1827, with two other priests and four laymen. They landed without permission from the authorities, and countenanced and encouraged those who became their adherents in various violations of the laws. The government at last (Dec., 1831) sent them away to California; but in 1839 the French government sent a frigate to Honolulu, and compelled Kamehameha III to declare the Catholic religion free to all. The whole number of the Catholic population of the islands in 1872 was stated to be 23,000 — probably an exaggeration. An English Reformed Catholic mission was sent out in 1862, and met with favor from Kamehameha V. An Anglican bishop of Hawaii was appointed, who remained until 1870. Since his return in that year the interest in the mission has decreased and its success is small. See Appleton's New Amer. Cyclop. s.v.; Newcomb, Cyclop. of Missions, s.v.

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