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A detailed history of missionary activity in Hawaii from its beginnings in the 1820's to the still felt effects of the present day does much to remove the stigma of acquisitiveness from their activities and establishes them and their descendants as men and women who lived conscientious, abstemious lives with the good of the community as their guiding principle. Incident by incident the book follows the history of the Hawaiian Islands closely and chronologically. Focussing on the interaction between the missionaries, headed by Hiram Bingham, Hawaiian royalty and officialdom and the foreign powers both governmental and economic, with which they had to deal, the material is vivid and reveals the importance of character and event. Notably it was Queen Kaahumanu who gave the New Englanders their first chance by urging her people to learn from them. But in spite of her efforts there were crises for years to come. Sex was a serious matter. To the Hawaiians it meant hospitality; the New Englanders considered the free lending of wives and girls morally shocking and physically unhealthful. Left to themselves the Hawaiians might easily have fallen prey to worse rather than better kinds of foreign influences. It is curious that the missionaries planned their strategy from a materialistic standpoint first, insisting that the Hawaiians wear clothes, have bigger and better houses etc., for the Hawaiians had a strong spiritual strain which, it is implied, might have been more skillfully played upon. It is a point Mr. Smith does not sufficiently examine in his later justification for the natural prosperity of the missionaries but he nevertheless gives us another very readable chapter in American history.

Publisher: Lippincott