The Life of John Coleridge Patteson HTML version
The Last Eighteen Months. 1870-1871.
The prosperous days of every life pass away at last. Suffering and sorrow, failure and
reverse are sure to await all who live out anything like their term of years, and the
missionary is perhaps more liable than other men to meet with a great disappointment.
'Success but signifies vicissitude,' and looking at the history of the growth of the Church,
it is impossible not to observe that almost in all cases, immediately upon any extensive
progress, there has followed what seems like a strong effort of the Evil One at its
frustration, either by external persecution, reaction of heathenism, or, most fatally and
frequently during the last 300 years, from the reckless misdoings of unscrupulous sailors
and colonists. The West Indies, Japan, America, all have the same shameful tale to tell--
what wonder if the same shadow were to be cast over the Isles of the South?
It is one of the misfortunes, perhaps the temptations of this modern world, that two of its
chief necessaries, sugar and cotton, require a climate too hot for the labour of men who
have intelligence enough to grow and export them on a large scale, and who are therefore
compelled, as they consider, to employ the forced toil of races able to endure heat. The
Australian colony of Queensland is unfit to produce wheat, but well able to grow sugar,
and the islands of Fiji, which the natives have implored England to annex, have become
the resort of numerous planters and speculators. There were 300 white inhabitants in the
latter at the time of the visit of the 'Curacoa' in 1865. In 1871 the numbers were from
5,000 to 6,000. Large sheep farms have been laid out, and sugar plantations established.
South Sea Islanders are found to have much of the negro toughness and docility, and, as
has been seen, when away from their homes they are easily amenable, and generally
pleasant in manner, and intelligent. Often too they have a spirit of enterprise, which
makes them willing to leave home, or some feud with a neighbour renders it convenient.
Thus the earlier planters did not find it difficult to procure willing labourers, chiefly from
those southern New Hebrides, Anaiteum, Tanna, Erromango, &c., which were already
accustomed to intercourse with sandal-wood traders, had resident Scottish or London
missionaries, and might have a fair understanding of what they were undertaking.
The Fiji islanders themselves had been converted by Wesleyan Missionaries, and these,
while the numbers of imported labourers were small, did not think ill of the system, since
it provided the islanders with their great need, work, and might give them habits of
industry. But in the years 1868 and 1869 the demand began, both in Queensland and Fiji,
to increase beyond what could be supplied by willing labour, and the premium, £8 a head,
on an able-bodied black, was sufficient to tempt the masters of small craft to obtain the
desired article by all possible means. Neither in the colony nor in Fiji were the planters
desirous of obtaining workers by foul means, but labour they must have, and they were
willing to pay for it. Queensland, anxious to free herself from any imputation of slave-
hunting, has drawn up a set of regulations, requiring a regular contract to be made with
the natives before they are shipped, for so many years, engaging that they shall receive
wages, and be sent home again at the end of the specified time. No one denies that when
once the labourer has arrived, these rules are carried out; he is well fed, kindly treated,