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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    He was as shy as a newspaper is when referring to its own merits.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    Captain Wawn is crystal-clear on one point: He does not approve of
    missionaries. They obstruct his business. They make "Recruiting," as he
    calls it ("Slave-Catching," as they call it in their frank way) a trouble
    when it ought to be just a picnic and a pleasure excursion. The
    missionaries have their opinion about the manner in which the Labor
    Traffic is conducted, and about the recruiter's evasions of the law of
    the Traffic, and about the traffic itself--and it is distinctly
    uncomplimentary to the Traffic and to everything connected with it,
    including the law for its regulation. Captain Wawn's book is of very
    recent date; I have by me a pamphlet of still later date--hot from the
    press, in fact--by Rev. Wm. Gray, a missionary; and the book and the
    pamphlet taken together make exceedingly interesting reading, to my mind.

    Interesting, and easy to understand--except in one detail, which I will
    mention presently. It is easy to understand why the Queensland sugar
    planter should want the Kanaka recruit: he is cheap. Very cheap, in
    fact. These are the figures paid by the planter: L20 to the recruiter
    for getting the Kanaka or "catching" him, as the missionary phrase goes;
    L3 to the Queensland government for "superintending" the importation; L5
    deposited with the Government for the Kanaka's passage home when his
    three years are up, in case he shall live that long; about L25 to the
    Kanaka himself for three years' wages and clothing; total payment for the
    use of a man three years, L53; or, including diet, L60. Altogether, a
    hundred dollars a year. One can understand why the recruiter is fond of
    the business; the recruit costs him a few cheap presents (given to the
    recruit's relatives, not himself), and the recruit is worth L20 to the
    recruiter when delivered in Queensland. All this is clear enough; but
    the thing that is not clear is, what there is about it all to persuade
    the recruit. He is young and brisk; life at home in his beautiful island
    is one lazy, long holiday to him; or if he wants to work he can turn out
    a couple of bags of copra per week and sell it for four or five shillings
    a bag. In Queensland he must get up at dawn and work from eight to
    twelve hours a day in the canefields--in a much hotter climate than he is
    used to--and get less than four shillings a week for it.

    I cannot understand his willingness to go to Queensland. It is a deep
    puzzle to me. Here is the explanation, from the planter's point of view;
    at least I gather from the missionary's pamphlet that it is the

    "When he comes from his home he is a savage, pure and simple. He
    feels no shame at his nakedness and want of adornment. When he
    returns home he does so well dressed, sporting a Waterbury watch,
    collars, cuffs, boots, and jewelry. He takes with him one or more
    boxes--["Box" is English for trunk.]--well filled with clothing, a
    musical instrument or two, and perfumery and other articles of
    luxury he has learned to appreciate."

    For just one moment we have a seeming flash of comprehension of, the
    Kanaka's reason for exiling himself: he goes away to acquire
    civilization. Yes, he was naked and not ashamed, now he is clothed and
    knows how to be ashamed; he was unenlightened; now he has a Waterbury
    watch; he was unrefined, now he has jewelry, and something to make him
    smell good; he was a nobody, a provincial, now he has been to far
    countries and can show off.

    It all looks plausible--for a moment. Then the missionary takes hold of
    this explanation and pulls it to pieces, and dances on it, and damages it
    beyond recognition.

    "Admitting that the foregoing description is the average one, the
    average sequel is this: The cuffs and collars, if used at all, are
    carried off by youngsters, who fasten them round the leg, just below
    the knee, as ornaments. The Waterbury, broken and dirty, finds its
    way to the trader, who gives a trifle for it; or the inside is taken
    out, the wheels strung on a thread and hung round the neck. Knives,
    axes, calico, and handkerchiefs are divided among friends, and there
    is hardly one of these apiece. The boxes, the keys often lost on
    the road home, can be bought for 2s. 6d. They are to be seen
    rotting outside in almost any shore village on Tanna. (I speak of
    what I have seen.) A returned Kanaka has been furiously angry with
    me because I would not buy his trousers, which he declared were just
    my fit. He sold them afterwards to one of my Aniwan teachers for
    9d. worth of tobacco--a pair of trousers that probably cost him 8s.
    or 10s. in Queensland. A coat or shirt is handy for cold weather.
    The white handkerchiefs, the 'senet' (perfumery), the umbrella, and
    perhaps the hat, are kept. The boots have to take their chance, if
    they do not happen to fit the copra trader. 'Senet' on the hair,
    streaks of paint on the face, a dirty white handkerchief round the
    neck, strips of turtle shell in the ears, a belt, a sheath and
    knife, and an umbrella constitute the rig of returned Kanaka at home
    the day after landing."

    A hat, an umbrella, a belt, a neckerchief. Otherwise stark naked. All
    in a day the hard-earned "civilization" has melted away to this. And
    even these perishable things must presently go. Indeed, there is but a
    single detail of his civilization that can be depended on to stay by him:
    according to the missionary, he has learned to swear. This is art, and
    art is long, as the poet says.

    In all countries the laws throw light upon the past. The Queensland law
    for the regulation of the Labor Traffic is a confession. It is a
    confession that the evils charged by the missionaries upon the traffic
    had existed in the past, and that they still existed when the law was
    made. The missionaries make a further charge: that the law is evaded by
    the recruiters, and that the Government Agent sometimes helps them to do
    it. Regulation 31 reveals two things: that sometimes a young fool of a
    recruit gets his senses back, after being persuaded to sign away his
    liberty for three years, and dearly wants to get out of the engagement
    and stay at home with his own people; and that threats, intimidation, and
    force are used to keep him on board the recruiting-ship, and to hold him
    to his contract. Regulation 31 forbids these coercions. The law
    requires that he shall be allowed to go free; and another clause of it
    requires the recruiter to set him ashore--per boat, because of the
    prevalence of sharks. Testimony from Rev. Mr. Gray:

    "There are 'wrinkles' for taking the penitent Kanaka. My first
    experience of the Traffic was a case of this kind in 1884. A vessel
    anchored just out of sight of our station, word was brought to me
    that some boys were stolen, and the relatives wished me to go and
    get them back. The facts were, as I found, that six boys had
    recruited, had rushed into the boat, the Government Agent informed
    me. They had all 'signed'; and, said the Government Agent, 'on
    board they shall remain.' I was assured that the six boys were of
    age and willing to go. Yet on getting ready to leave the ship I
    found four of the lads ready to come ashore in the boat! This I
    forbade. One of them jumped into the water and persisted in coming
    ashore in my boat. When appealed to, the Government Agent suggested
    that we go and leave him to be picked up by the ship's boat, a
    quarter mile distant at the time!"

    The law and the missionaries feel for the repentant recruit--and
    properly, one may be permitted to think, for he is only a youth and
    ignorant and persuadable to his hurt--but sympathy for him is not kept in
    stock by the recruiter. Rev. Mr. Gray says:

    "A captain many years in the traffic explained to me how a penitent
    could betaken. 'When a boy jumps overboard we just take a boat and
    pull ahead of him, then lie between him and the shore. If he has
    not tired himself swimming, and passes the boat, keep on heading him
    in this way. The dodge rarely fails. The boy generally tires of
    swimming, gets into the boat of his own accord, and goes quietly on

    Yes, exhaustion is likely to make a boy quiet. If the distressed boy had
    been the speaker's son, and the captors savages, the speaker would have
    been surprised to see how differently the thing looked from the new point
    of view; however, it is not our custom to put ourselves in the other
    person's place. Somehow there is something pathetic about that
    disappointed young savage's resignation. I must explain, here, that in
    the traffic dialect, "boy" does not always mean boy; it means a youth
    above sixteen years of age. That is by Queensland law the age of
    consent, though it is held that recruiters allow themselves some latitude
    in guessing at ages.

    Captain Wawn of the free spirit chafes under the annoyance of "cast-iron
    regulations." They and the missionaries have poisoned his life. He
    grieves for the good old days, vanished to come no more. See him weep;
    hear him cuss between the lines!

    "For a long time we were allowed to apprehend and detain all
    deserters who had signed the agreement on board ship, but the
    'cast-iron' regulations of the Act of 1884 put a stop to that,
    allowing the Kanaka to sign the agreement for three years' service,
    travel about in the ship in receipt of the regular rations, cadge
    all he could, and leave when he thought fit, so long as he did not
    extend his pleasure trip to Queensland."

    Rev. Mr. Gray calls this same restrictive cast-iron law a "farce." "There
    is as much cruelty and injustice done to natives by acts that are legal
    as by deeds unlawful. The regulations that exist are unjust and
    inadequate--unjust and inadequate they must ever be." He furnishes his
    reasons for his position, but they are too long for reproduction here.

    However, if the most a Kanaka advantages himself by a three-years course
    in civilization in Queensland, is a necklace and an umbrella and a showy
    imperfection in the art of swearing, it must be that all the profit of
    the traffic goes to the white man. This could be twisted into a
    plausible argument that the traffic ought to be squarely abolished.

    However, there is reason for hope that that can be left alone to achieve
    itself. It is claimed that the traffic will depopulate its sources of
    supply within the next twenty or thirty years. Queensland is a very
    healthy place for white people--death-rate 12 in 1,000 of the population
    --but the Kanaka death-rate is away above that. The vital statistics for
    1893 place it at 52; for 1894 (Mackay district), 68. The first six
    months of the Kanaka's exile are peculiarly perilous for him because of
    the rigors of the new climate. The death-rate among the new men has
    reached as high as 180 in the 1,000. In the Kanaka's native home his
    death-rate is 12 in time of peace, and 15 in time of war. Thus exile to
    Queensland--with the opportunity to acquire civilization, an umbrella,
    and a pretty poor quality of profanity--is twelve times as deadly for him
    as war. Common Christian charity, common humanity, does seem to require,
    not only that these people be returned to their homes, but that war,
    pestilence, and famine be introduced among them for their preservation.

    Concerning these Pacific isles and their peoples an eloquent prophet
    spoke long years ago--five and fifty years ago. In fact, he spoke a
    little too early. Prophecy is a good line of business, but it is full of
    risks. This prophet was the Right Rev. M. Russell, LL.D., D.C.L., of

    "Is the tide of civilization to roll only to the foot of the Rocky
    Mountains, and is the sun of knowledge to set at last in the waves
    of the Pacific? No; the mighty day of four thousand years is
    drawing to its close; the sun of humanity has performed its destined
    course; but long ere its setting rays are extinguished in the west,
    its ascending beams have glittered on the isles of the eastern seas
    . . . . And now we see the race of Japhet setting forth to
    people the isles, and the seeds of another Europe and a second
    England sown in the regions of the sun. But mark the words of the
    prophecy: 'He shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be
    his servant.' It is not said Canaan shall be his slave. To the
    Anglo-Saxon race is given the scepter of the globe, but there is not
    given either the lash of the slave-driver or the rack of the
    executioner. The East will not be stained with the same atrocities
    as the West; the frightful gangrene of an enthralled race is not to
    mar the destinies of the family of Japhet in the Oriental world;
    humanizing, not destroying, as they advance; uniting with, not
    enslaving, the inhabitants with whom they dwell, the British race
    may," etc., etc.

    And he closes his vision with an invocation from Thomson:

    "Come, bright Improvement! on the car of Time,
    And rule the spacious world from clime to clime."

    Very well, Bright Improvement has arrived, you see, with her
    civilization, and her Waterbury, and her umbrella, and her third-quality
    profanity, and her humanizing-not-destroying machinery, and her
    hundred-and-eighty death-rate, and everything is going along just as

    But the prophet that speaks last has an advantage over the pioneer in the
    business. Rev. Mr. Gray says:

    "What I am concerned about is that we as a Christian nation should
    wipe out these races to enrich ourselves."

    And he closes his pamphlet with a grim Indictment which is as eloquent in
    its flowerless straightforward English as is the hand-painted rhapsody of
    the early prophet:

    "My indictment of the Queensland-Kanaka Labor Traffic is this

    "1. It generally demoralizes and always impoverishes the Kanaka,
    deprives him of his citizenship, and depopulates the islands fitted
    to his home.

    "2. It is felt to lower the dignity of the white agricultural
    laborer in Queensland, and beyond a doubt it lowers his wages there.

    "3. The whole system is fraught with danger to Australia and the
    islands on the score of health.

    "4. On social and political grounds the continuance of the
    Queensland Kanaka Labor Traffic must be a barrier to the true
    federation of the Australian colonies.

    "5. The Regulations under which the Traffic exists in Queensland are
    inadequate to prevent abuses, and in the nature of things they must
    remain so.

    "6. The whole system is contrary to the spirit and doctrine of the
    Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel requires us to help the weak,
    but the Kanaka is fleeced and trodden down.

    "7. The bed-rock of this Traffic is that the life and liberty of a
    black man are of less value than those of a white man. And a
    Traffic that has grown out of 'slave-hunting' will certainly remain
    to the end not unlike its origin."
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