The Troy Daily Times, 12 January 1870

"Our Fellow Citizens of the Sandwich

Samuel L. Clemens, better known perhaps as Mark Twain, the humorist, lectured in Union Place Hall, West Troy, last night upon the above interesting topic. Mr. C. came hither under the auspices of Roy steamer company, and was greeted with a full house. The lecture gave a world of satisfaction. Those who went to laugh were abundantly satisfied; those who went from any other cause must have been likewise well pleased, for notwithstanding some things that are repulsive about them no one can fail to like "our fellow savages." Mr. Twain is a man about thirty-five or forty years of age, somewhat tall and spare-built, and has the regular Western knack of telling a story. Next Winter Mark must make his bow to a Troy audience. We present a brief report of the lecture below:

Ladies and Gentlemen: The--next--lecture--in--this--course--will--be--delivered this evening, by Samuel L. Clemens,--a gentleman--whose--high--character and unimpeachable integrity--are only equalled by his--comeliness--of--person--and--grace--of--manner. And--I--am--the--man! You will excuse me for introducing myself, for I have just excused the chairman from introducing me. The fact is no chairman can introduce me as I ought to be introduced. (Laughter.)

I come now to the Sandwich Islands, and shall tell the truth about them as nearly as I can. If I do embellish with some nonsense it is of no consequence. This nonsense is the ornamental barnacle that clings to the oyster. As I was reared a good way from tide-water, I don't really know whether the barnacle clings to the oyster or not--but I do.

When Capt. Cook discovered these islands, though another man came very near discovering them two weeks before, they contained four hundred thousand souls. White men came and brought complicated diseases, civilization, education and other calamities, and shortly the natives began to die off with commendable zeal. Forty years ago they were reduced to two hundred thousand, and by the last census they had dwindled down to fifty-five thousand. It is proposed to start a few more seminaries of learning and finish them off. It is not education or civilization that is doing this--it is the importation of disease. Owing to consumption and other reliable diseases, the natives are retiring from business very fast. In color the natives are a rich, dark brown--a sort of black and tan. A very pleasing tint. The easy-going ways they have inherited from their ancestors have made them idle, but not vicious. They are a very excellent people. The native women wear a single, long, loose garment. But the men don't. When there is a public ceremony the men wear cotton umbrellas, or some little fancy article like that; but further than this, they don't seem to have any inclination to gorgeousness of attire. After speaking of the absolute sway of the old-time kings, and the degradation of their subjects, the lecturer spoke of the women.

Down at the bottom of all this degradation and misery came the women. They were abject slaves--degraded to the ranks of brutes and beasts. No better. They had no privileges. It was death for a woman to eat at the table with her own husband. Death for her to eat of the choice fruits. Even those poor debased savages had a notion of what had come by woman's eating the forbidden fruit. By and by the American missionaries broke the power of the chiefs, and lifted the wives to an equality with the men. The missionaries set up schools and taught them to read and write with facility, and there is not a single ignorant person there now. They are the best educated people in the world. I can testify to the zeal of the missionaries, and to their faith and devotion. Still, all this work, extending over so many years and costing so much, was carried on by Sunday school children. We all took part in it. True, the system gave opportunities to bad boys. Many a bad boy acquired the habit of confiscating pennies of the missionary cause. But it is the proudest reflection of my life that I never did that--at least not more than once or twice.

The natives are very hospitable. They will give you a seat in their cabin, and fresh fish, raw salt pork, baked dog, stewed cats, and all the luxuries of the season. But when it comes to business matters it is a different thing entirely--they will tell you one falsehood after another--lies that will awe you with their grandeur--that are stunning in sublimity. It doesn't discommode the native in the least to do this. And he slides out of it with an ease that is charming. Every one of them has half a dozen mothers. I don't mean to say natural mothers, but adopted ones. They have a custom of calling any woman "mother" that they have taken a fancy to. You see at once that a native may have one hundred and fifty mothers. This custom breeds some curious incidents. A California gentleman who owned a sugar plantation hired one of these natives to work for him in the busy season. He soon came to ask leave to bury his mother. Shortly after he came again with the same request. "I thought you buried her last week," said the gentleman. "This is another one," said the native. "All right," said the gentleman, "go and plant her." After a few more such requests the planter said that he thought that his stock of mothers held out pretty well, and told him to clear out and not come back again till he had buried every mother he had in the world.

The natives of these islands are very fond of dogs. Not the magnificent Newfoundlands nor the graceful greyhound--but insignificant curs that a white man would despise. There is not a handsome feature about them unless it is their tail. And there is nothing extraordinary about that. A friend of mine said that if he owned one he would cut his tail off and throw the balance of the dog away. But the natives love these pups--they feed them from their own hands, sleep with them, pet them, till they have grown to mature doghood, and then eat them. Now I couldn't do that. I would rather go hungry two days than devour an old personal friend. A native of these islands will eat anything that he can bite. They will take a fresh fish right out of the water and eat him. Of course it is inconvenient to the fish, but the native enjoys it. It used to be a popular belief that these islanders were cannibals. But cannibalism never existed there, except in one instance. And this cannibal was a foreigner who opened an office there and ate a good many of the natives. He did a large business in this line. In other cities, at this point in my discourse, it is my custom to illustrate cannibalism. But being a stranger here I don't feel at liberty to ask favors. Still, if any one in the audience would lend me an infant. [Laughter.] However, it doesn't matter. I know that little children have grown scarce and high, on account of neglect and inattention since the woman movement set in.

Well, as I say, the cannibal opened his establishment there, but they say that by and by he got tired of his diet. Well, anybody would. So he thought he would like to try and see how a white man would go--and so he lay in wait, and captured a venerable whaling-ship captain, sixty-five years in the service. The cannibal did the best he could, but it was the worst thing he ever did. Of course, he could no more digest that old whaler than a keg of nails. He suffered. There is no telling how much he suffered, with this sin on his conscience and the whaler on his stomach. He lingered for a few days, and then died. Let this be a warning to you. I don't know myself why it should be a warning to you, but I notice that when other lecturers mention a historical fact they do not believe in themselves, they always back it up with a moral.

With all their kindly ways these people practice some cruelties. They will put a live chicken into hot ashes simply to see it hop about. They would burn the flesh before the missionaries came, and would put out an eye, or a tooth, when a chief died. And if their grief was deep, and they could get relief in no other way, they would go out and scalp a neighbor. In the season of mourning for a great person they permit any crime that will best express great sorrow.

They do everything differently from other people. They mount a horse from the off side. They turn to the left instead of the right. They say the same words for "good bye" and "how do you do." They always, in beckoning for you to come, motion in the opposite direction. Even the birds partake of this peculiarity. The native duck lives four thousand feet above the level of the sea, and never sees water except when it rains. They (the islanders) groan in a heart-broken way when they are particularly happy. They have some customs we might import to advantage. I don't call any to mind just now.

In Honolulu, they are the most easy-going people in the world. Some of our people are not acquainted with their customs. They started a gas company once, and put the gas at $13 a thousand feet. They only took in $16 the first month. They all went to bed at dark. They are an excellent people. I speak earnestly. They do not even know the name of some of the vices in this country. A lady called on a doctor. She wanted something for general debility. He ordered her to drink porter. She called him again. The porter had done her no good. He asked her how much porter she had taken. She said a tablespoonful in a tumbler of water. I wish we could import such a blessed ignorance into this country. There are low white people in Hawaii who would drink liquors if they could get them. They drink kerosene, aqua fortis, hair oil, turpentine. They do say that the whole population got terrifically drunk on the Fourth of July on a barrel of Mrs. Winslow's soothing syrup.

The islands are delightful, because they are in the tropics. The thermometer doesn't change more than 12 degrees in twelve months. It stands at about 70 the year round. You can have any climate you want. Mountains that rise to a prodigious height, with eternal snows on the tops. And as you come down you go through the climates of all the zones, and have the vegetation of all the climes.

I must mention one feature of the place before I close. It would not be proper to close without speaking of it. The white people there have a tradition that all the supremely gifted liars in the world are confined to the Sandwich Islands. They say that a man named Morgan there will never permit anybody to beat him in telling a story. When asked if he had heard of the Natural Bridge, Virginia, he said of course he had, his father helped to build it. He had the fastest horse in the world, and in a thunder shower once he ran him eighteen miles and not a single drop of water touched him, while he dog was swimming all the way behind the wagon. He told of a company he belonged to in California who hired one fellow to blast some rock. Owing to carelessness there was an explosion, and this fellow was blown up in the air till he didn't look any larger than a little boy--then he looked no larger than a dog--then no larger than a bird--finally than a bee. And then he began to descend, and increased in size from a bee to a bird--and a dog--and a boy--and finally to a full-sized man--coming down in exactly the same spot where he went up, and began to blast rock immediately on landing. Morgan said that fellow was gone only fifteen minutes, and yet they docked him for lost time.

The lecturer here closed his address by thanking his audience for their attention and wishing them a very pleasant good night.