1875: Anthony Trollope: “How is it possible for a humane and pious man moving about among these poor creatures not to attempt to endow them with the glorious gifts which he himself feels that he possesses?”

What are we to do with the South Sea Islands? It might seem that this is a needless question, and that we Englishmen as Englishmen are not required to do anything with the South Sea Islands. At home, perhaps, as a people, we do not trouble ourselves much about them. We are aware that there are many hundred little specks of land lying about the Pacific Ocean, chiefly within the tropics, inhabited by savage races, many of them inhabited by cannibals, among whom missionaries have gone from ourselves and other civilised people; but the islands do not belong to us.

English subjects, gone half-wild: “Why, then, should it be a care to us to ask what is to be done with them? And yet the question is constantly getting itself asked, and is forcing an answer. Englishmen go and settle among them, and have to be looked after. It cannot be permitted that English subjects, gone half-wild with the license begotten by long absence, but still with enough of civilisation left for ascendency over the absolute savage, should be allowed to live as they please in these remote spots.

The question of slavery: “And then there is that great question of labour, with the attendant question of slavery. Kidnapping cannot be allowed. At any rate, let there be no British kidnapping. These poor cannibals have thews and sinews, and if taken to other lands can be made to work and become profitable. Let them go and work like other labourers if they please; but they shall not be taken against their will. At any rate they shall not be taken by English ships or by English speculators.

Next stop PNG: “In this way there has grown up a most complicated question. The islands which we call Fiji have forced themselves upon us, and have become a British colony, from these causes. We are now being invited to undertake the difficult and very disagreeable task of annexing the enormous island called Papua, or New Guinea.

Ships of war go island-hopping: “And we maintain ships of war running about among the islands generally, trying to maintain justice, struggling to do some little good among these poor people; making an effort—alas, too often futile—to carry Christianity with them, at considerable expense, and sometimes with results to ourselves which are most disastrous”.

Mission in life: “The missionary work, too, superadds itself so naturally to that which we must suppose to be more distinctly authorised by the Government at home. How is it possible for a humane and pious man moving about among these poor creatures not to attempt to endow them with the glorious gifts which he himself feels that he possesses? Thus attempts are made, and intercourse is established.
Trollope, Anthony. The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury. Berkeley: University of California Press, The articles, which bear Trollope’s signature, can be found on page five every Saturday from July 3, 1875, through November 13, 1875. [1978,c1941] 1978. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft1d5nb0hv/

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