Page images

Domingo de Boenechea on behalf and by authority of the King of Spain and the ruling chiefs of Tahiti-a State Paper which lay hidden for 130 years in the maze of muniments treasured by the Spanish Government, at Seville, and but for the activities of the Hakluyt Society might still have remained there undisclosed. Akin to it is the Act of Cession by which the natives of Easter Island were induced, in 1770, to put their country at the disposal of the same sovereign, and to which they affixed marks (which have been miscalled signatures) of the same character as the mysterious 'glyphs' or graven tablets since found among that isolated remnant of a people, but never yet clearly explained or deciphered.

The work in which the former of these two documents is now published comprises a set of three volumes, entitled The Quest and Occupation of Tahiti by Emissaries of Spain, 1772-76,' with which may be bracketed an earlier one, 'The Voyage of Don Felipe González,' containing the glyphs. In these four volumes are described a series of exploratory voyages conducted by command of King Charles the Third of Spain, with the object of forestalling British and French enterprise in the southern Pacific. It was the wild scheme of MM. de Surville and Law de Lauriston for driving a trade with the natives of Easter Island, reputed to be 'Davis's Land' (which they confused with Bougainville's' Nouvelle C-thère'), and the series of blunders and misadventures which brought about the délabrement of that scheme that inspired the Viceroy of Peru to despatch a naval expedition from Callao, for reconnaissance purposes, in 1770. This expedition consisted of a 70-gun ship and a frigate-a force afterwards characterised by the Comte de Fleurieu as an 'armement suffisant pour subjuguer tous les Archipels du Grand Océan.'

The commander bore instructions to find the island that Surville had missed, to bring its natives into submission as vassals of His Majesty of Castile, and to expel any foreigners who might be found settled there. In 'The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González' the Hakluyt Society has brought to light and translated into English all the official documents which determined the expedition just referred to. With them are pub

lished the journals of the commander and two other officers, none of which had been printed before, even in Spanish. To these the editor has prefixed a translation of Meester Roggeveen's official log, in so far as it relates to the Hollanders' transactions at Easter Island in 1722. That log is the only official record of Roggeveen's voyage; having been impounded, it was only brought to light in 1836, at Middelburg. It adds interest to the collection of papers and facilitates a comparison between the methods, observations, and experiences of the two sets of explorers. As in the case of the Hollanders, so also the Spaniards' investigations covered a stay of barely one week; and, in reporting to His Majesty the result attained, the Viceroy expressed disappointment at the hurried and somewhat sketchy way in which his instructions had been applied. The King therefore directed that a second visit should be paid to the island, and that the opportunity should be utilised to establish a small settlement of Spanish soldiers there. Just at this time, however, rumours reached Lima of Captain Cook's return to England, and of his sojourn at Tahiti for the purpose f observing the transit of Venus; so the Viceroy, pprehensive, like his Sovereign, lest some deeper motive tan zeal for astronomy should have influenced the Bitish Government, decided that the projected re-examintion and military occupation of 'San Carlos' (as they reamed Easter Island) should be supplemented by a sinlar move in respect of Tahiti.

he first volume of 'The Quest and Occupation of Tabi' is really a sequel to the narrative of González' voye, and opens with a brief review of these proceedigs and the three voyages of the 'Águila' to Tahi which ensued, written by the Viceroy, Don Manu de Amat, for the information and guidance of his sucessor. It contains, too, a number of previously unpubshed State Papers showing how the Spanish King ad his Ministers were obsessed by a belief that the Brish Admiralty had established a naval settlement onome bay or river on the Patagonian coast, or among e intricate fiords and islands composing its western byrinth. The post in question was eventually revealed a small Spanish scout or surveying vessel, not wheret was expected, but at Port Egmont in the

Falkland Islands, then known to the Spanish officials only as Las Islas Malvinas, where they themselves had a station, called Puerto de la Soledad. The history of our dislodgment from Port Egmont in 1770, our resettlement there four years afterwards, and subsequent abandonment of that foothold for no explicit reason, though without any surrender of our rights, is full of interest. Perhaps Lord Mahon's summary of the subject, in the fifth volume of his History of England,' affords the best conspectus of the chain of events comprised; but a detailed narrative, illustrated by all the official documents that were exchanged between the nations, and certain admirable water-colour drawings of Port Egmont and our block-house or watch-tower erected there, which are preserved in the Archivo de Indias at Seville, still awaits an author.

[ocr errors]

The volume under notice necessarily touches upon these incidents, and it supplies some of the interesting correspondence conducted by our opponents amongst themselves, translated by the editor from original despatches found in the repository just mentioned. But the Malvinas were outside the jurisdiction of the Vicero of Peru; and that prudent officer wisely recommended that their affairs should be committed to the care of the Governor of Buenos Ayres, which was accordingly done.

[ocr errors]

From Callao Captain Boenechea of the 'Águila to whom the Viceroy entrusted the conduct of the expedition, directed his course firstly towards the situation where the scanty particulars in his possession indiated that he would find Tahiti; and in this 'Quest' h was entirely successful, sighting its lofty forest-clad acc/vities on Nov. 8, 1772. Like Cook, the Spanish captain caused the island to be explored in its entire circuit by party in one of the ship's boats. They were everywhre well received, and the lieutenant in charge of this duy made acquaintance with several of the native chiefs, icluding Otoo and Oreti, who had been friends and host to Cook and Bougainville before him. From these b gleaned some particulars of the visits of the English ad French ships; but the natives' accounts were vague ar confused. One of the marines serving in the Água,' named Máximo Rodríguez, applied himself to learn ae Tahitian


dialect, and acquired a fluency in it which afterwards stood him and his superiors in good stead.


[ocr errors]

Volume I ends with Boenechea's own journal of the voyage, and an account of his intercourse with the natives, which was humane and sympathetic on his part and friendly on theirs throughout. The anchorage selected for the frigate on this occasion was in the lagoon at the south-eastern extremity of the island, off Vai-urua, and is now commonly laid down on the charts (but erroneously, as the editor points out) as Lángara's Harbour.' The correlation of the Spaniards' narratives with the accounts written by Captain Cook and other members of his expeditions, synchronising so nearly as these did with the three visits of the Aguila,' is of much interest and quite new to historians. Among matters to which the editor has drawn attention is the baseless accusation recorded by George Forster, who sailed with Cook in the 'Resolution' in 1773–5, against Don Juan de Lángara to the effect that, while in command of the 'Águila' at Tahiti, this distinguished officer hanged four of his crew. This statement was not challenged at the time when Forster's narrative was published; it was repeated from that work in the Missionary Society's 'Voyage of the Duff' a few years afterwards; and has since been copied time after time by the compilers of ignorant works of reference, after the manner of their kind, just as the mythical identity of Tahiti with La Sagitaria' of Quiros has been so reaffirmed. The editor of these volumes not only finds no support for Forster's allegation in any of the documents relating to the 'Águila's' three voyages to Tahiti, but shows conclusively that the misconception arose through faulty interpretation; that Forster himself knew nothing of the language when he wrote the statement down, having then been only a week at the island; that Don Juan de Lángara never commanded the 'Águila,' and, moreover, never visited Tahiti at all.

[ocr errors]

In the second volume of the set, independent journals of the same voyage are presented, one by a friar who had previously been a pilot; and one by a junior officer who ranked as alferez, or ensign, from a MS. in the Hydrographic Office at Madrid. They are followed by a number of State Papers setting forth the complete

history of the 'Águila's' subsequent two voyages, the earlier of which was undertaken with the object of planning a Mission at Tahiti for the conversion of the natives, and the assertion of Spanish sovereignty over the island and its remarkable native community, as by divine right. This expedition had the misfortune to lose its commander, Captain Boenechea, an elderly and kindhearted man, who died suddenly and was buried in the island. The editor, while residing at Tahiti in 1908-9 to familiarise himself with its topography, language, and people, had the satisfaction of locating the plot of ground where Boenechea lies interred; it is unsanctified by any visible memorial, the original wooden cross that marked the spot and commemorated the Spanish occupation (and which, for this latter reason, Captain Cook defaced, in 1777) having long since decayed. To Captain Cook, indeed, these visits of the Spanish ship were full of mystery; there are frequent allusions to them in the journals of his second and third circumnavigations, and in those of his companions, whom they also fairly puzzled.

At her second visit the 'Águila' was accompanied by a hired storeship, the Jupiter.' Her master, one José de Andía y Varela, a Chilean by birth, who was also the owner and navigator of the craft, wrote what is perhaps the best and most intelligent account that we have of the voyage and the transactions at the island. This has been included by the editor in this second volume of 'The Quest, etc.,' together with Boenechea's journal continued by his successor, Lieutenant Tomás Gayangos. Another document is a somewhat banal and fragmentary diary written by the two Franciscan friars whom Boenechea installed at Tahiti as missionaries.

What the friars' diary lacks is, however, amply made good in the third volume, which is almost wholly devoted to the aforementioned Máximo Rodríguez' diary. Máximo was the individual referred to in somewhat scathing terms by Captain Cook as 'Mateema,' in consequence of his having been led away by patriotic sentiment to allege hard things, a good deal wide of the truth if natives' gossip was to be believed, about 'Tute' himself and the English nation. So says Cook, at least, though Máximo, in a Memorial that he submitted to

« PreviousContinue »