A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 14 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 822 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 14.
which we do not meet with at Tonga-tabboo.  There the coral rock is covered only with a thin bed of mould, which sparingly affords nourishment to all sorts of trees; and the most useful of all, the bread-fruit tree, thrives imperfectly on the island, as it is destitute of water, except when a genial shower happens to impregnate and fertilize the ground.  The labour of the natives is therefore greater than that of the Otaheitans, and accounts for the regularity of the plantations, and the accurate division of property.  It is likewise to this source we must ascribe it, that they have always set a higher value on their provisions than on their tools, dresses, ornaments, and weapons, though many of these must have cost them infinite time and application.  They very justly conceive the articles of food to be their principal riches, of which the loss is absolutely not to be remedied.  If we observed their bodies more slender, and their muscles harder than those of the Otaheitans, this seems to be the consequence of a greater and more constant exertion of strength.  Thus, perhaps, they become industrious by force of habit, and when agriculture does not occupy them, they are actuated to employ their vacant hours in the fabrication of that variety of tools and instruments on which they bestow so much time, patience, labour, and ingenuity.  This industrious turn has also led them, in the cultivation of all their arts, to so much greater perfection than the Otaheitans.  By degrees they have hit upon new inventions, and introduced an active spirit, and enlivening cheerfulness even into their amusements.  Their happiness of temper they preserve under a political constitution, which does not appear to be very favourable to liberty; but we need not go so far from home to wonder at such a phenomenon, when one of the most enslaved people in all Europe (the French, no doubt, are intended; this was published in 1777,) are characterised as the merriest and most facetious of mankind.  Still there may be more sincerity in the cheerfulness of the natives of Tonga-tabboo, for, exclusive of great and almost servile submission, their king does not seem to exact any thing from them, which, by depriving them of the means to satisfy the most indispensable wants of nature, could make them miserable.  Be this as it may, so much seems to be certain, that their systems of politics and religion, from their similarity with the Otaheitan, as far as we could judge, must have had one common origin, perhaps in the mother country, from whence both these colonies issued.  Single dissonant customs and opinions may have acceded to the primitive ideas, in proportion as various accidents, or human caprices, have given rise to them.  The affinity of their languages is still more decisive.  The greatest part of the necessaries of life, common to both groups of islands, the parts of the body, in short, the most obvious and universal ideas, were expressed at the Society and Friendly Isles, nearly
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