Mark Twain on Captain Cook.
It seems that Mark Twain while here, not only borrowed "Jarves" History of Captain Cook and carried it off, vi et armis; but that he also appropriated from its pages the following synopsis of the event of the navigator's death:
Plain unvarnished history takes the romance out of Captain Cook's assassination, and renders a deliberate verdict of justifiable homicide. Wherever he went among the islands he was cordially received and welcomed by the inhabitants, and his ships lavishly supplied with all manner of food. He returned these kindnesses with insult and ill treatment.
When he landed at Kealakekua Bay, a multitude of natives, variously estimated at some ten to fifteen thousand, flocked about him and conducted him to the principal temple with more than royal honors - with honors suited to their chiefest god, for which they took him to be. They called him Lono - a deity who had resided at that place in a former age, but who had gone away and had ever since been anxiously expected back by the people. When Cook approached the awe-stricken people, they prostrated themselves and hid their faces. His coming was announced in a loud voice by heralds, and those who had not time to get out of the way after prostrating themselves, were trampled underfoot by the following throngs. Arrived at the temple, he was taken into the most sacred part and placed before the principal idol.
These distinguished civilities were never offered by the islanders to mere human beings. Cook was mistaken for their absent god; he accepted the situation and helped the natives to deceive themselves. His conduct might have been wrong in a moral point of view, but his policy was good in conniving at the deception, and proved itself so; the belief that he was a god saved him a good while from being killed - protected him thoroughly and completely, until, in an unlucky moment, it was discovered that he was only a man. His death followed instantly. Jarves, from whose history, principally, I am condensing this narrative, thinks his destruction was a direct consequence of his dishonest personation of the god; but unhappily for the argument, the historian proves over and over again that the false Lono was spared time and time again when simple Captain Cook of the Royal Navy would have been destroyed with small ceremony.
The idolatrous worship of Captain Cook, as above described, was repeated at every heathen temple he visited. Wherever he went the terrified common people not being accustomed to seeing gods marching around of their on free will and accord and without human assistance, fled at his approach or fell down and worshipped him. A priest attended him and regulated the religious ceremonies which constantly took place in his honor; offerings, chants and addresses met him at every point. "For a brief period he moved among them an earthly god - observed, feared and worshipped." During all this time the whole island was heavily taxed to supply the wants of the ships or contributed to the gratification of their officers and crews, and as was customary in such cases, no returns expected. "The natives rendered much assistance in filling the ships and preparing them for their voyages."
At one time the king of the island laid a tabu upon is people, continuing them to their houses for several days. This interrupted the daily supply of vegetables to the ships. Several natives tried to violate the tabu, under threats made by Cook's sailors, but were prevented by a chief, who for the enforcing the laws of his country, had a musket fired over his head from one of the ships. This is related in "Cook's Voyages." The tabu was soon removed, and the Englishmen were favored with the boundless hospitality of the natives as before, except that the Kanaka women were interdicted from visiting the ships. Formerly, with extravagant hospitality, the people had sent their wives and daughters on board themselves. The officers and sailors went freely about the island and were everywhere laden with presents. The King visited Cook in royal state and gave him a large number of exceedingly costly and valuable presents - in return for which the resurrected Lono presented His Majesty a white linen suit and a dagger - an instance of illiberality in every way discreditable to a god.
"On the 2d of February, at the desire of his commander, Captain King proposed to the priests to purchase for fuel the railing which surrounded the top of the temple of Lono! In this Cook manifested as little respect for the religion in the mythology of which he figured so conspicuously, as scruples in violating the divine precepts of his own. Indeed, throughout his voyages a spirit regardless of the rights and feelings of others, when his own were interested, is manifested, especially in his last cruise, which is a blot upon his memory."
Cook desecrated the holy places of the temple by storing supplies for his ships in them, and by using the level grounds within the inclosure as a general workshop for repairing his sails, etc. - ground which was so sacred that no common native dared to set foot upon it. Ledyard, a Yankee sailor, who was with Cook, and whose journal is considered the most just and reliable account of this eventful period of the voyage says two iron hatchets were offered for the temple railing, and when the sacrilegious proposition was refused by the priests with horror and indignation, it was torn down by order of Captain Cook and taken to the boats by the sailors, and the images which surmounted it removed and destroyed in the presence of the priests and chiefs.
The abused and insulted natives grew desperate under the indignities that were constantly being heaped upon them by men whose wants they had unselfishly relieved at the expense of their own impoverishment, and angered by some fresh baseness, they stoned a party of sailors and drove them to their boats. From this time onward Cook and the natives were alternately friendly and hostile until Sunday the 14th, whose setting sun saw the circumnavigator a corpse.
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