A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 794 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13.

In their longer voyages, they steer by the sun in the day, and in the night by the stars; all of which they distinguish separately by names, and know in what part of the heavens they will appear in any of the months during which they are visible in their horizon; they also know the time of their annual appearing and disappearing with more precision than will easily be believed by an European astronomer.[22]

[Footnote 22:  Mr Bryan Edwards has been at pains to compare together the Otaheitans and the original inhabitants of some of the West India islands.  On the whole, he gives the preference to the latter.  But he is far indeed from being unjust to the former, in the description he has given of them.  A few quotations may be made from his work, to the edification of the reader, and it is conceived, that though some of them seem to respect subjects discussed in the next chapter, this is the best place for giving them.  “Having mentioned the natives of the South-Sea Islands, I cannot but advert to the wonderful similarity observable, in many respects, between our ill-fated West Indians and that placid people.  The same frank and affectionate temper, the same cheerful simplicity, gentleness, and candour;—­a behaviour, devoid of meanness and treachery, of cruelty and revenge, are apparent in the character of both; and although placed at so great a distance from each other, and divided by the intervention of the American continent, we may trace a resemblance even in many of their customs and institutions; their national songs and dances, their domestic economy, their system of government, and their funeral ceremonies.  I pretend not, however, to affirm that this resemblance is so exact as to create the presumption of common origin.  The affinity perceivable in the dispositions and virtues of these widely-separated tribes, arose probably from a similarity in their circumstances and situation, operating on the general principles of human nature.  Placed alike in a happy medium; between savage life, properly so called, and the refinements of polished society, they are found equally exempt from the sordid corporeal distresses and sanguinary passions of the former state, and from the artificial necessities, the restraints, and solicitudes of the latter.”—­“In those inventions and arts, which, varying the enjoyments, add considerably to the value of life, I believe the Otaheitans were in general somewhat behind our islanders; in agriculture they were particularly so.  The great support of the inferior territories of the South-sea consists of the bread-fruit and the plantain; both which flourish there spontaneously; and although the inhabitants have likewise plantations of yams, and other excellent roots, yet the cultivation of none of them appears to be as extensive as was that of the maize in the West Indies, or to display equal skill with the preparation of the Cassavi-bread from the maniock.  The West Indians, notwithstanding that they possessed almost every variety of vegetable nature

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