CHAPTER II. Narrative of Captain Cook's first voyage round the world.
Upon account of the absence of the two parties who had been sent out to observe the transit, the king's birthday was celebrated on the 5th, instead of the 4th of June; and the festivity of the day must have been greatly heightened by the happy success with which his majesty's liberality had been crowned.
On the 12th, Lieutenant Cook was again reduced to the necessity of exercising the severity of discipline. Complaint having been made to him, by certain of the natives, that two of the seamen had taken from them several bows and arrows, and some strings of platted hair, and the charge being fully supported, he punished each of the criminals with two dozen of lashes.
On the same day it was discovered, that Otaheite, like other countries in a certain period of society, has its bards and its minstrels. Mr. Banks, in his morning's walk, had met with a number of natives, who appeared, upon inquiry, to be travelling musicians; and, having, learned where they were to be at night, all the gentlemen of the Endeavour repaired to the place. The band consisted of two flutes and three drums; and the drummers accompanied the music with their voices. To the surprise of the English gentlemen, they found that themselves were generally the subject of the song, which was unpremeditated. These minstrels were continually going about from place to place; and they were rewarded, by the master of the house and the audience, with such things as they wanted.
The repeated thefts which were committed by the inhabitants of Otaheite brought our voyagers into frequent difficulties, and it required all the wisdom of Lieutenant Cook to conduct himself in a proper manner. His sentiments on the subject displayed the liberality of his mind. He thought it of consequence to put an end, if possible to thievish practices at once, by doing something that should engage the natives in general to prevent them, from a regard to their common interest. Strict orders had been given by him, that they should not be fired upon, even when they were detected in attempting to steal any of the English property. For this the lieutenant had many reasons. The common sentinels were in no degree fit to be entrusted with a power of life and death; neither did Mr. Cook think that the thefts committed by the Otaheitans deserved so severe a punishment. They were not born under the law of England; nor was it one of the conditions under which they claimed the benefits of civil society, that their lives should be forfeited, unless they abstained from theft. As the lieutenant was not willing that the natives should be exposed to fire-arms loaded with shot, neither did he approve of firing only with powder, which, if repeatedly found to be harmless, would at length be despised. At a time when a considerable robbery had been committed, an accident furnished him with what he hoped would be a happy expedient for preventing future attempts of the same kind. Above twenty of the sailing canoes of the inhabitants came in with a supply of fish. Upon these Lieutenant Cook immediately seized, and, having brought them into the river behind the fort, gave notice, that unless the things which had been stolen were returned, the canoes should be burnt. This menace, without designing to put it into execution, he ventured to publish, from a full conviction that, as restitution was thus made a common cause, the stolen goods would all of them speedily be brought back. In this, however, he was mistaken. An iron coal-rake, indeed, was restored; upon which, great solicitation was made for the release of the canoes; but he still insisted on his original condition. When the next day came, he was much surprised to find that nothing further had been returned; and, as the people were in the utmost distress for the fish, which would in a short time be spoiled, he was reduced to the disagreeable alternative, either of releasing the canoes contrary to what he had solemnly and publicly declared, or of detaining them, to the great damage of those who were innocent. As a temporary expedient, he permitted the natives to take the fish, but still detained the canoes. So far was this measure from being attended with advantage, that it was productive of new confusion and injury; for as it was not easy at once to distinguish to what particular persons the several lots of fish belonged, the canoes were plundered by those who had no right to any part of their cargo. At length, most pressing instances being still made for the restoration of the canoes, and Lieutenant Cook having reason to believe, either that the things for which he detained them were not in the island, or that those who suffered by their detention were absolutely incapable of prevailing upon the thieves to relinquish their booty, he determined, though not immediately, to comply with the solicitations of the natives. Our commander was, however, not a little mortified at the ill success of his project.