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THE COMING OF THE MISSIONARIES.
Such was the social and political condition of the Hawaiian Islands at the time of their discovery, and for some years thereafter. The brief visits of trading or merchant vessels to some part of the coast brought the natives in only occasional contact with white civilization; and these experiences, as already seen, scarcely served to give to these simple people an impression of admiration and respect for the white man. They had now no written language, no system of hieroglyphics or pictographs. They had, it is true, a vast number of traditions, which had been transmitted from generation to generation doubtless for centuries. Many of their religious and semi-religious rites and ceremonies were shocking to the civilized eye, in what seemed their immorality and indecency. The rise of the whale-fishery served to increase the number of the visiting vessels, the whale-ships employing the Islands as places of rendezvous for fresh supplies and water. The personal morality of the people was in no manner improved by these visits. A vessel in the offing
was at once surrounded by the canoes of the natives, who offered the products of the Islands for barter. But, even more swift than the canoes were the native women, who swam out to the vessel, and climbed to the deck by the fore chains. Deeper and deeper, then, were these people sinking into degeneracy. The baseness of their religious ceremonies was in no whit lessened by contact with such of the whites as they had seen, and the foulest of diseases speedily fastened themselves upon these unhappy people.
But the day of their deliverance from this evil influence was at hand. The story opens with the discovery of a young lad, in the year 1809, upon the steps of Yale College at New Haven. He was weeping. His face was of a brown hue, unlike that of any of the well-known races; his hair was straight and black; his dark and lustrous. Who was this boy, and why was he here? He could speak a broken English ; and, when questioned as to the cause of his grief, he declared that he was weeping at the thought of his ignorance and of that of his people.
The mysterious boy, then fourteen years
of age, was Obookiah, a Hawaiian, who later was given the name of Henry. During one of the civil wars with which his island home was often convulsed, his father and mother had been slain before his eyes. Taking his little brother upon his back, the boy endeavored to save himself and the child. But the little one was slain with a spear cast by an enemy, and alone the lad fled to the mountains. An American vessel, commanded by Captain Brintnell, lay in the offing; and the lad escaped, with two native companions, from an almost certain death to the protection of our flag. He was brought to New Haven, and there came in contact with educational influences. He was taken as a pupil by the Rev. Edwin W. Dwight. To him and to others the boy told of the condition of his people, then so far away, and said that he longed to get instruction, in order that he might some day return to his native islands and convey to them what he had learned. This dream was not to be realized, for his life soon closed. But the work which he had begun was continued by the two Hawaiian youths, the companions of his escape. . Their