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of the kings, in fief, in return for military service and tribute. Each of the great chiefs divided up the lands controlled by him among the lower chiefs who owed him vassalage; and they, in turn, subdivided the lands among the common people, who cultivated the soil. These were mere tenants at will, and might be dispossessed at any time. It was possible, also, for a serf to transfer his allegiance to another chief, and thus transfer also his tenancy.
At the death of a chief the estates in his keeping reverted to the king, and were redistributed. At the death of a king, also, and the accession of another it was the custom to make a redistribution of all the lands of his island; and this redistribution not infrequently was the cause of civil
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Such was the political condition of the people of the Hawaiian Islands at the time of their discovery by Captain Cook. Their social relations were indefinite. A plurality of wives was common, and polyandry was practised to some extent.
There was elaborate system of tabus, which were not simply laws, but religious and sacred ordi
nances as well. The violation of a tabu would, it was believed, bring upon the transgressor the vengeance of the gods. It was tabu for men and women to eat together. Some kinds of food were tabu to women, as, for example, pork, bananas, cocoanuts, turtles, and certain varieties of fish. At certain times it was forbidden to light a fire; at others, to utter any sound for the space of twenty-four hours. In the operation of this tabu, not only was all noise forbidden to the people, but dogs were muzzled, and even fowls were confined in calabashes, that the darkness might prevent even the crowing of a cock.
Human sacrifices were common, the illness of a chief or the violation of a tabu being often the occasion.
Among such people, thus bound by superstition and tradition, Captain Cook and his followers found themselves. To the vast majority of the people a white man was an object never before seen. They recognized his superiority over themselves; and they believed him to be a god, and offered him their obeisance. It was in the midst of one of the civil wars with which the Islands were fre
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quently convulsed that Captain Cook made his first visit. It was in this war that the young prince Kamehameha, of the island Hawaii, distinguished himself as a brave and skilful warrior. He it was who a few years later conquered the entire archipelago, uniting all of the Islands under his sway, and founding a powerful dynasty of Hawaiian monarchs.
Captain Cook, as already said, was, on his arrival, regarded as a god, and was, to some extent, worshipped by the people. His first stay at the Islands was short, but he soon returned for the purpose of passing the winter. This second time he and his men were not welcomed so joyfully as on their first appearance. Depredations had been committed on shore by some of the crew, and thefts by some of the natives of some articles of little value had been punished by Cook and his men with great severity. The discovery on the part of the natives that the white men partook of food, added to the knowledge of the death of one of the crew, raised suspicion among the Hawaiians that these sailors were men, like themselves. Violations of the
tabus by the white men created first a dislike and then an enmity toward their visitors in the minds of the natives. This feeling was intensified by the loose conduct of members of the crew on shore leave. But there was yet no open hostility; and early in February, 1779, Captain Cook again sailed away from the Islands. In a few days, however, he returned for the purpose of making some needed repairs to one of his ships, which had encountered damage in a severe gale. An altercation almost immediately occurred between the natives and members of the crew, the subject of the contention being a stolen boat. The altercation ripened into a quarrel, the quarrel into a mêlée, and this resulted in the death of Cook at the hands of one of the natives. In revenge for his death the village of Napoopoo was cannonaded; and on the twenty-fifth day of February, 1779, Captain Cook's vessels took their final leave of the Islands, leaving upon the minds of the islanders an impression of the white race far from agreeable.
It is interesting to know that the island natives of the present day have preserved the memory of the first white discoverer of their
islands in the erection of a marble monument upon the spot where he met his death. This monument is a conspicuous landmark upon the shore of the island Hawaii, at Kealakekua Bay.
The story of the death of Cook was carried to Europe by the returning ships, and, as might be expected, was told by the ship's crew in a manner best suited to their own advantage. The impression of the character of the islanders thus produced upon the people of Europe sufficed to keep enterprising voyagers away from those coasts for fully seven years. During this period the Islands were rent by civil feuds. Prince Kamehameha gathered to himself a considerable military following, and made unsuccessful war against the two allied chiefs of the Islands. He also made a fruitless attempt to invade the island of Maui. But, although beaten back in those expeditions, he not discouraged.
In May, 1786, the English ships King George, commanded by Captain Portlock, and Queen Charlotte, under command of Captain Dixon, arrived off the coast of Ha