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Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


The brutal treatment that the islanders received from the hands of their early visitors was not calculated to impress them favorably. Usually the strangers were met upon their arrival by a crowd of noisy, restless, impetuous people, as curious as children and as peaceable and friendly with all their boisterousness. The greatest fault they committed was theft, and in return numbers were shot down and innocent persons murdered. Roggeveen plainly states that his boats approached the island well armed and in great fear of the natives. The men were formed in line of battle as they disembarked, and before all were landed, Some one in the rear fired a shot, and immediately a fusilade began by these cowardly ruffians upon the unfortunate islanders, ten or twelve of whom were killed outright and as many were wounded. The admiral quietly shifts the responsibility for this outrage upon the shoulders of the second mate of the Thienhoven, who offers as an excuse that some of the natives were observed to take up stones and make threatening gestures. As soon as the astonishment and terror of the inhabitants had subsided, they sued for mercy, and everything they possessed in the way of fruits and vegetables, poultry, etc., was procured and laid as a peace offering at the feet of the Dutchman. Captain Cook afterwards received the most friendly reception possible from the same people, but he observed their great dread of fire-arms, the deadly effects of which were thoroughly understood. The landing party conducted a brisk trade, and were highly amused to witness the small thefts committed upon one another in order to obtain articles for barter, yet Lieutenant Edgecomb did not hesitate to immediately shoot with his musket a poor unfortunate who picked up a little bag of botanical specimens.

Captain Beechey was received with friendly demonstrations and his boats, sent on shore for supplies, obtained bananas, yams, potatoes, sugar-cane, nets, etc., in trade, and some were thrown into the boats, leaving the strangers to make what return they chose. His journal dwells at great length upon the thieving propensity of the natives. His boats were surrounded by native swimmers, who trade off with small articles that came within reach of them, and among them were women who were not the actual plunderers, but who procured the opportunity for others by engrossing the attention of the seamen.

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To reach the landing-place the boats had to pass a small isolated rock upon which many persons had congregated, and who sang a song of welcome, accompanied by gestures showing that the visit was acceptable. On shore the party was surrounded by a crowd clamorous to obtain something from the strangers, the few presents offered were accepted, and then everything that came handy appropriated in the most open manner. This led to a scuffle, in which sticks and stones were freely used, resulting in a fight in which the native chief was shot and killed. The punishment of the natives, according to European ideas, was both cruel, and unnecessary. La Pérouse judged the same crimes more leniently, and did not feel justified in committing murder to avenge petty thefts. The outrages perpetrated upon the defenseless people by Captain Rugg, of the Friend, and other freebooters, including the Peruvian slavers, require no comment.

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