The Lepers on Molokai.
To the Editor of the Commercial Advertiser:
Sir:—One of those strange scenes, which show how petty and mean are all the doings of this life, struck me on my last trip to the leprosy village of Molokai. Indeed the beautiful and picturesque view presented by the perpendicular rock that surrounds the place—this awful precipice of from two to five thousand feet in height—was truly grand, and the perfect quietness of that isolated spot gave deepness to the impression received on my visit. It would indeed be a fit paradise in which these poor sick wretches, stamped forever by a fatal destiny, might end the rest of their days in peace, though banished far from home, friends and kindred. Not only do natives, but human cupidity seems to persecute them.
The condition of these poor and unhappy wretches does not seem to be too low a subject for the most selfish intrigues and speculations.
Interested by the study of that disease which has afflicted mankind for so many centuries, I descended the nearly perpendicular pali, to witness the lepers, accompanied by Mr. Myers of Molokai, and Mr. King, the photographer of Lahaina, who were anxious to share with me the fatigues and pleasures of the trip.
But how was I disappointed, and what terrible lesson had I yet to learn of human infamy, and official neglect! How indignant was I when I heard the cries of the emaciated and ghastly inhabitants of this place, like the wailing of damned souls in hopeless hate, “Pilikia, aole ai, aole ai!” Their forms still seem before me, asking God as well as the Government, “what they have done to deserve such a punishment?”
It is true that Mr. Louis, the superintendent of the place, wrote to the Board of Health at Honolulu for provisions. The answer came back, “Let them work.” Yes! Let them be driven out of human society, and be compelled to work! Let them work with their sore limbs and swollen toes, while exposed by every change of temperature to the most painful exacerbations of the disease. Let them work, so that we may have our share of the products of their labor.
The Board of Health could hardly avoid sending a barrel of salt beef; (fresh meat is here a sight good for sore eyes;) but it smelt so horribly, that only a famine could persuade these poor wretches to eat it.
For the benefit of humanity, please to publish this letter. Sic itur ad astra.
(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 12/29/1866, p. 3)