Sandwich Islands from Encyclopedia American 1851

by Jim Morgan

from #hawaii

from the Encyclopedia Americana 1851– SANDWICH. ISLANDs ; a cluster of islands in the North Pacific ocean, discovered by captains Cook and King in 1778, who gave them their present name in honor of the first lord of the admiralty. The group consists of ten islands, of which eight are inhabited, and extends from lat. 18° 5C to 22° 20′ N., and from Ion. 154° S37 to 160° 15′ W., lying about one third of the distance from the western coast of Mexico to the eastern coast of China. The population of the whole group was estimated by captain King at 400,000, but, according to Ellis, does not at present exceed 150,000, the diminution being owing partly to the desolating wars of Tamehameha’s reign, and partly to the ravages of a pestilence brought in by foreign vessels, which has twice prevailed in the islands. The total superficial extent is about 6000 square miles. The principal islands in extent and population are Hawaii (Owhyhee), 4000 square #miles, 85,000 inhabitants; Maui (Mowee), 600 square miles, 20,000 inhabitants; Oahti (Woahoo), 520 square miles, 20,000, containing the town of Honolulu, the residence of the king, of the foreign functionaries, and twelve or fourteen merchants, chiefly Americans, with about 7000 inhabitants; Tauai (Atooi), 525 square miles, 10,000 inhabitants. The latter island and Nihau (Oneehow) are distinguished for the cultivation of the yam, and are much resorted to by ships for supplies of that article. Most of the islands are volcanic and mountainous. In some places, the volcanoes are in activity. Several of the summits are of great height. The loftiest, Mouna Roa, and Mouna Kea, are estimated at about 15,000 feet. The climate is warm, but not unhealthy, the winter being marked only by the prevalence of heavy rains between December and March. A meteorological table gives as the greatest heat during the year, 88° of Fahrenheit, as the least, 61°. The only quad rupeds originally found in these islands were a small species of hogs, dogs, and a sort of rat. There are now large herds of cattle in Hawaii, and many tame ones in the other islands, goats, sheep, and horses. There are no poisonous reptiles, excepting centipeds, which are neithei large nor numerous. There are an abundance of seafowl on the coasts, and in the interior a species of parrot and a kind of woodpecker,, with which the images of the gods were formerly adorned. The vegetable productions are taro [arum escxdentum), yam, breadfruit, cocoanut, and strawberry. Oranges, grapes, and other tropical fruits, have been introduced, and thrive well, and some culinary vegetables are cultivated for the shipping which resorts thither. The situation of the Sandwich islands renders them important to vessels navigating the Northern Pacific, partly for repairs and provisions, and partly in commercial respects. After the visit of Vancouver (1792), they were not much visited, except by traders from the U. States, who, having discovered among them the sandal wood, conveyed large quantities of it to China, where it is burnt in the temples. The independence of the Spanish colonies, and the prosecution of the whalefisheiy on the coasts of Japan have greatly increased their importance. The following account of the number and tonnage of American ships which annually visit them, ¦is from Stewart’s Visit to the South Seas in 1829 and 1830 (New York,1831):Vessels direct from the U. States for sandal wood, returning by way of China or Manilla, six (together 1800 tons); vessels bound to Northwest coast,which generally winter here, five (1000 tons); vessels bound from the SpanishAmerican republics to China or the East Indies, eight (2500 tons); vessels owned by American residents, and trading to Northwest coast, to Mexico, China, and Manilla, six (1000 tons); vessels engaged in the whalefishery on the coast of Japan, 100 (35,000 tons); making a total of 125 vessels, and 40,000 tons. The natives are, in general, rather above the middle stature, well formed, with fine muscular limbs, and open countenances. Their hair is black or brown, and frequently curly; their complexion a kind of olive, and sometimes reddishbrown. Their language is a dialect of that spoken by the inhabitants of the Society islands. They are of a mild and gentle disposition, inquisitive and intelligent ; but previously to the abolition of their idolatrous religion, the practice of sacrificing human victims prevailed among them. Since their adoption of Christianity, they have made a no less wonderful progress in the arts of civilized life than in moral character. They have many convenient and handsome houses, neat and comfortable clothing, &c. Stewart, who visited the islands in 1829, after an absence of four or five years, gives a striking description of the change which had taken place in that interval. After the visit of captain Cook, who was killed at Hawaii in 1779, the islands were involved in a series of destructive wars between several rival chiefs, for the undivided sovereignty. The result of these struggles was the ascendency of Tamehameha, chief of Hawaii, a sagacious, enterprising and ambitious prince. He built a navy, armed his guard in the European manner, fortified his palace with cannon, encouraged commerce, and introduced various mechanical arts among his subjects. On his death in 1819, he was succeeded by his son Rihoriho; and at about the same time idolatry was abolished and the idols burnt. During the last year of his reign, Tauai and Nihau, the only islands of the group not subdued by Tamehameha, submitted to h is government. Rihoriho, with his q u een, died in England in 1824, and his brother and successor, Kauikeaouli, is at present (1832) about 20 years of age. The regency has been in the hands of the queenmother, Kaahumanu. In 1820, a mission was established at Hawaii by the American Board of Foreign Missions. The missionaries fortunately arrived just after the abolition of the national idolatry, and their efforts have been attended with great success. Not only have they introduced the arts, comforts and usages of civilized society to a great extent, but the Christian religion has been embraced by nearly the whole population. Printing presses have been established, books printed in the native language, an alphabet of twelve letters (five vowels and seven consonants) invented, schools established, and churches built. The Missionary Herald for Jan., 1832, states the whole number of schools in the islands to be above 900, with 50,000 learners. Missions have been established in Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Taui; and in 1830 a band consisting of seven persons (three missionaries), and in 1831 another of nineteen persons (eight missionaries and a printer), sailed for the same destination. See Ellis, Tour through Haivaii (3d ed. 1827); lord Byron’s Voyage, to the Sandwich Islands (1827); Stewart’s Residence in the Sandivich Islands.


Taken from the Encyclopedia American 1851 Edition. PUBLIC DOMAIN