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


The ancient government of Easter Island was an arbitrary monarchy. The supreme authority was vested in a king and was hereditary in his family. The person of the king was held sacred. Clan tights and internecine struggles were common, but the royal person and family were unmolested. The king reigned over the entire island and was not disturbed by the defeat or the victory of any of the clans. The island was divided into districts having distinct names and governed by chiefs, all of whom acknowledged the supremacy of the king. The title of chief was also hereditary, and descended from father to son, but the king reserved the right to remove or put to death any of them and of naming a successor from the people of the clan.

There was no confederation, each clan being independent of all the rest, except as the powerful are naturally dominant over the weak. The chiefs wore peculiar feather hats to denote their rank, and they presided at feasts and councils in the absence of the king. Other grades of rank were recognized, such as that required by feats of valor, public

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service rendered, such as image making, etc., but this privileged class had no authority vested in them over their fellows. Personal security and the rights of private property were little regarded, and disputes were settled by king or chief without regard to law or justice. There was no code of the laws, the people avenged their own injuries, and persons who incurred the displeasure of the ruler were marked as victims for sacrifice. It does not appear that any great homage was paid the king, and no tax was exacted of the people. Long-continued custom was accepted as law, and defined the few duties and privileges of the private citizen.

Maurata, the last of a long line of kings, together with all of the principal chiefs of the islands was kidnapped by the Peruvians and died in slavery. Since that time there has been no recognized authority among the natives; every man is his own master, and looks out for his own interests.

In 1863-164 the natives were converted to Christianity by Frère Eugène, a Jesuit missionary. A Frenchman called Dutrou-Bornier had settled upon the island and started an extensive farm, and a conflict of authority sprang up between the two foreigners, which led to bitter feuds between the natives. Dutrou-Bornier lived with a common woman, who had been the wife of a chief, and he succeeded in having her proclaimed queen of the island, under the name of Korato. A system of espionage and intrigue was instituted by Queen Korato, guided by the Frenchman's instructions, which resulted in an open rebellion against the ecclesiastical authority. The missionary was finally compelled to leave the island, and be removed to Gambier Archipelago with about three hundred of his followers, giving Dutrou-Bornier and Queen Korato a clear field. The Frenchman was killed in August, 1876, by being thrown from his horse while drunk, and Queen Korato and her two children survived him only a few years. Mr. Salmon found upon his arrival that none of the natives had assumed authority over his fellows, and in due course that gentleman became to all intents and purposes the king of the island, ruling the people with kindness and wisdom and thus securing their unbounded respect and esteem.

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