Volume 87 1978 > Memoir No. 42: The nobility and the chiefly tradition in the modern Kingdom of Tonga, by George E. Marcus, p 1-166 > Chapter 2: Traditional chiefly status and the origin of the nobility, p 18-42
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Criteria and Principles of 'Eiki Chiefly Classification

In a yet unpublished work, 1 Elizabeth Spillius (Bott) has reconstructed the traditional principles of Tongan chiefly classification and early social structure. She had a unique opportunity to work intensively at the court of the late Queen Sālote, analysing genealogies, legends, and interviews from a number of now deceased experts on Tongan lore, including the Queen herself. 2 In precontact times, the concept of sino'i 'eiki, literally ‘of the body of the ‘eiki’ but meaning “of aristocratic blood”, had both loose and restricted meanings. In the strictest sense, ‘eiki referred to the sacred king or Tu'i Tonga himself as well as to the children he produced by his major wife. Loosely, it applied to all people who could trace a close kin connection with one of the Tu'i Tonga or their lineal descendants. Aside from these usages, in which people were definitively classed as ‘of the body’ of the Tu'i Tonga or not, the term ‘eiki had completely contextual application. A man who ruled strongly in an area might be called ‘eiki by his subjects, but when he was in the presence of outsiders of higher rank, he might be called or refer to himself by a demeaning term such as motu'a (literally, ‘old one’, but also a demeaning term referring to someone in a situationally submissive or low status). The application of the term ‘eiki in this relative sense was by analogy: that is, it honoured the local leadership of a man by associating him with the highest prestige value of the society — possessing ‘eiki-ness or being ‘eiki-like. Such an application of ‘eiki as connotation is to be distinguished from sino'i 'eiki as denotation.

Now the English word “chief” connotes authority over territory and - 19 a group of subjects, but there is no exact equivalent in Tongan. There were chiefs without title (hingoa fakanofo ‘appointed name’) and without ‘eiki “blood”, and they might be called, from the perspective of the central kingship, motu'a tauhi fonua ‘appointed overseer of the land’ or ivilahi ‘those of great strength or power’. Some chiefs held titles and some not, some were sino'i ‘eiki and some not. Also, some men held titles as matāpules or ceremonial attendants to the king (and later to chiefs) without possessing any authority or association with sino'i ‘eiki themselves. The possible permutations of status by blood, authority, and title in traditional Tonga can be diagrammed as follows:

Criteria of ‘eiki/chiefly status attribution in pre-Tupou Tonga.

I shall refer to relationships among these criteria as the domain of ‘eiki chiefly status classification in Tonga before Tupou I.

The origin and uses of formally appointed titles are obscure. Before the rise of the Tu'i Kanokupolu line of kings, they were clearly of little prestige significance and appeared to have conceptually contrasted with the quality of being sino'i 'eiki. The hereditary title was perhaps a means of honouring those without sino'i ‘eiki or an addition to the honour of those possessing sino'i ‘eiki status. The sino'i ‘eiki themselves disdained titles (despite their occasional possession of them through conferral by the kingship), preferring to use their personal names in both reference and address. They were secure in their status as aristocrats through their recognised blood associations with the Tu'i Tonga descent line.

The separate but overlapping criteria of ‘eiki/chiefly status created a complex system of status attribution, which Spillius saw as dynamic and convergent. Over generations, those of hereditary authority (through regionally or locally imposed power) would eventually acquire some degree of recognised ‘eiki-ness through appropriate marriages. Those with - 20 titles or ‘eiki blood or both would disappear in time from the aristocratic and chiefly lines if they did not acquire power and authority, or accommodate those who did. Goldman's synthetic work on ancient Polynesia 3 is based on the evolution of these societies through the dynamic of status rivalry — the fact that chiefly rank attribution was multidimensional and that the historical interplays of overlapping status principles such as hereditary blood rank and strong leadership account for the variations of traditional Polynesian social structure.

Just who the commoners (kau tu'a literally, ‘those outside or those excluded’) were in traditional Tonga is ambiguous. Apparently, in absolute terms, they were a residual category of all those who were unmarked and unrecognised by any of the criteria of ‘eiki/chiefly status. They were the dependent kinsmen (and over generations, their descendants) of those who held, singly or in combination, hereditary authority, title honour, and ‘eiki blood honour. In a relative and contextual sense, the subjects of a chief were tu'a in his presence while non-‘eiki (including chiefs) were tu'a in the presence of sino'i 'eiki.

Since concepts of ‘eiki/chiefly honour figure so explicitly in the expression of differences in kinship rank based on sex, as will be discussed below, it is necessary to deal briefly with the factors on which the lāngilangi ‘honour, glory’ of Tongan ‘eiki are based. Chiefliness has been an idiom extended to a variety of behaviours and statuses, expressing the superiority of an act, office, or social position without necessarily indicating that a particular act or status so characterised has any closer specific analogy with stereotypic chiefly status or behaviour. In this sense, the labelling of a particular individual or social act as ‘eiki is merely a general means of conferring approval or prestige, derived conceptually from the most valued, established status and behavioural style in Tongan society.

The primary source of ‘eiki/chiefly honour’ was the ascriptive and hereditary possession of close blood connections through direct descent to the Tu'i Tonga line of kings, which, as sino'i 'eiki, conferred on such individuals some degree of the sacred power and sanctity associated with the Tu'i Tonga office. In precontact Tonga, those who were sino'i ‘eiki were generally viewed as possessing a special ‘glory’ or ‘honour’, even though they did not necessarily exercise any sort of chiefly authority or leadership. The secondary source of chiefly ‘honour’ was the possession of achieved or conferred positions of authority and leadership, titled or untitled, which were hereditary, but could be modified in social regard by individual performance. Ideally, chiefly leaders derived their ‘honour’ from the approval, signified by the conferral of titles and other recognitions, of the Tu'i Tonga or sino'i 'eiki. In fact, the ‘honour’ of those in lineage and descent group authority was often established independently of recognition by sino'i ‘eiki through the development over generations of politically powerful lines of chiefs. The creation of legends and stories relating to the exploits of powerful individuals formed the base of a competing system defining ‘glory’ or ‘honour’, independent of sino'i ‘eiki-approved chiefliness.

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Nowadays, both the ascribed and achieved bases of chiefly ‘honour’ persist, but the situation has been stabilised by the institution of a restricted set of chiefly titles as a nobility. The nobles build their honour among the contemporary population by extolling, not so much their pre-contact heritage, but rather their ancestors' part in the better remembered rise of the present kingship and the formation of the compromise culture. Although sino'i 'eiki status is embodied in the present dynastic line, the Tupou kings likewise derive their legitimacy and paramount honour, not so much from ideas about sacred kingly status and power, as from their heritage as the architects of Tonga's transformation and present social order.

Principles of Kinship Rank in Relation to 'Eiki/Chiefly Status Attribution 4

In addition to the classification of ‘eiki/chiefly status, the domain of kinship has traditionally been a basis for rank determination in social relations. The major feature of Tongan kinship is that categories of kinsmen in ego's own generation and his first ascending and descending generations are, from ego's perspective, exhaustively and discretely organised by relationships of inequality. This ranked organisation of kinship categories is in turn reflected in ego's behavioural orientation to members of these categories in both ritual and everyday situations. Kaeppler has isolated three principles by which Tongan kin categories are ranked: 5 (1) from ego's perspective, kinsmen related through ego's father have higher status than those related through ego's mother; (2) females have higher status than their full male siblings; and (3) elder has higher status than younger among siblings of the same sex. 6

Of the three principles, the second, inequality in kin status or rank by sexual difference, appears to be the most crucial in discriminating categories. All kinsmen of a male ego's generation are either his tuofefine ‘female siblings’ or tokoua ‘same sex siblings’. For a female ego, male kinsmen of the same generation are tuonga'ane ‘male siblings’; female kin of the same generation are again tokoua ‘same sex siblings’. Tongan kinship terminology involves terms of reference only; at present, all kinsmen are addressed by personal names or a generic honorific (such as - 22 tangata ‘eiki or fefine ‘eiki ‘respected male’ or ‘respected female’ used most commonly in referring to one's own biological parents). From ego's perspective, the status inequality of patrilineal male kinsmen is of a different kind from the status inequality associated with matrifiliated kinsmen or with women within his own patriline and their descendants.

The transmission of political authority and leadership, and the inheritance of rights to land in traditional descent groups, were based on the tracing of linkages through male lines, although one apparently had the option of affiliating on a long-term or permanent basis with either one's father's or mother's patrilines for participation in various activities and contexts. However, following the predominant trend in the past, the fixed, legally supported rule at present is for men to succeed to titles and positions of leadership, and to inherit land through patrilineally determined primogeniture. In terms of intra-kindred or kāinga relations, then, a male ego would expect to have domestic and political authority over his tehina ‘younger male siblings’, foha ‘male offspring of his patriline’, and 'ofefine ‘female offspring of his patriline’, and to pass and receive land and hereditary offices among his patri-kin. Terminologically, ego refers to all males of the first ascending generation of his biological father's patriline as tamai, and he is expected to defer to them. He most strictly defers to and obeys his biological tamai, while deferential behaviour and obedience are rather variable aspects of the relationship to other tamai, the degree of which depends upon the biological tamai's rank position (by age seniority) among his own tokoua ‘male siblings’.

Among his patri-kin, ego is inferior in status to women and their off-spring. These include all those in the category of tuofefine ‘female sibling’, 'ilamutu ‘offspring of female siblings’, mehekitanga ‘female kinsmen one generation above ego, related through his father’, and offspring of mehekitanga. The superior status of the children of mahekitanga is not marked terminologically; ego refers to them as tokoua and tuofefine, i.e., by the same terms he uses for his siblings. Ego behaves with marked deference towards his tuofefine, a deference expressed through tapu forbidding any interaction that might suggest sexual attraction. He should defer to his 'ilamutu ‘offspring of female siblings’ in a manner which will be described below.

Those in the category mehekitanga are ego's most respected kin. The category mehekitanga is superior to the category tamai. Women who are ego's mehekitanga relate to those who are ego's tamai as tuofefine. Traditionally, women as mehekitanga had the power to curse fakafotu ‘male sibling's offspring’; they traditionally named fakafotu at birth; and they were consulted in all important decisions relating to the personal development of fakafotu, such as marriage choices. Ego defers most strictly to his eldest mehekitanga, either in situational contexts or abstractly. Deference and obedience are the behavioural orientations towards others categorised as mehekitanga. Although not specifically obligated to obey or defer to those tokoua and tuofefine who are the offspring of mehekitanga, ego tends to be especially restrained and respectful in interactions with these relatives.

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Women within patrilines possess no formal political or domestic authority and have no rights in the determination of inheritance of land and succession to office or title, but they are revered by men and are considered by them, in certain roles such as mehekitanga, to possess mystical or sacred powers. In some sense, women are closer to the realm of the sacred than men and determine the attributes of offspring (their personality make-up, their fortunes and luck) more than biological fathers. Also as mehekitanga they have some control or influence over individuals within a patriline, especially the males who make the routine decisions in the realm of political, economic, and religious activities. Tongans (both males and females) are inarticulate about the content of beliefs underlying clearly expressed feelings concerning the ritual and sacred superiority of female status over male status within the kainga. Thus it is difficult to provide interpretations of an ideology associated with the special regard in which female kinsmen are held by men. Yet, this regard is clear from the terms of inequality in which Tongans discuss relationships among those in the categories tuofefine-tuonga'ane and mehekitanga-fakafotu. The parallel use of the categories denoting inequality between those of chiefly and commoner status, 'eiki-tu'a, to describe relationships between those in male-derived and female-derived kinship categories will be discussed in detail below.

Within a patri-kin group, then, men are ranked by factors of seniority of lineage and age in a status hierarchy which is concerned with matters of leadership in political and domestic affairs as well as inheritance in economic affairs. Women within a patri-kin group, from the perspective of males, are ranked by the same factors (seniority of line of descent and age) in a status hierarchy among themselves. However, the female hierarchy has an association with certain hereditary mystical powers and attributes, defining a status or rank hierarchy which is held by men to be superior to or more significant than their own ranked relationships in political and economic affairs. The special status of women and their offspring is marked by the deference shown to them and privileges enjoyed by them as tuofefine, mehekitanga and 'ilamutu on ceremonial and ritual occasions.

Affinal terminology as well as expectations concerning behaviour among affines is undeveloped relative to the differentiation of kinship categories and behaviour. Wives were referred to as unoho (literally, ‘sexual intercourse’) or ma'a (literally, ‘clean’, presumably emphasising the ideal virgin state of women on marriage) and are now referred to as mali (the Tonganisation of ‘marry’); men are also referred to as mali by their wives. A wife's in-law's, i.e., the close kinsmen of her husband, were collectively referred to as her matāpule, the term for ceremonial attendant of a chief. This usage suggests that the orientation of a man's relatives to his wife was analogous to the revered or chiefly status accorded her by males in her own patrikindred. Nowadays, the term matāpule reciprocally applies to the in-law relationships of both the husband and the wife so that the wife's relatives are matāpule to her husband and vice versa. Affines should treat each other with mutual regard and equality, but Tongans are neither as explicitly articulate nor as demonstrative behaviourally about norms of - 24 affinal relations as they are about those of kin relations. The formality of a traditional marriage arrangement was marked by a customary set of reciprocal visits among prospective affines, including the exchanges of food, mats, and tapa, 7 but without any considerable movement of goods (as bridewealth or dowry) to either the husband's or wife's kinsmen. Residence was presumably and is normally virilocal.

A male ego refers to the women of the first ascending generation on his biological mother's side as fa'ē. A women refers to her offspring, both male and female, as tama. A woman should defer to her husband and respect his authority in the household, but she usually continues to maintain a very strong relationship with her own patri-kin group in which she enjoys privileged status among male members as tuofefine and 'ofefine. At least partly because of the continuing significance of a woman's role in her kāinga of origin, there has been and is a high incidence of both legally adjudicated divorce and open-ended separations among Tongan conjugal pairs.

The rank relation between fa'e and tama is ambiguous; for example, it is not nearly as marked by inequality as the tamai-foha relationship. Some analysts 8 indicate that the child is above his mother in kin status or rank. However, this assertion is challenged by the status similarity, if not identity, of mother and child within the mother's patri-kin group where those in the category 'ilamutu ‘offspring of female siblings’ should share virtually the same status as tuofefine. Those in the category fa'ē are looked upon as educators and cultural moulders of tama. Although indulged (at least in early life), children do not appear to elicit deference behaviour and clear behavioural cues of status inequality from those in the category fa'ē. In a sense, those in the category of tama share most closely the status of those in the category fa'ē in relation to rank determination with other categories of matrifiliated kinsmen.

Ego refers to all males in the first ascending generation on his biological mother's side as tu'asina or fa'ē tangata (literally, ‘those who are tu'a’ or ‘mother male’ respectively). In relation to ego, those in the category of tu'asina are the mirror image of those who are mehekitanga, and are the latters' inverse with respect to sex and kinship rank. Ego's most inferior kinsman is the youngest member of the tu'asina category, either situationally or abstractly. Although a tu'asina does not exhibit extreme deference behaviour towards those in the category 'ilamutu ‘offspring of female siblings’ situationally, he should be solicitous of an 'ilamutu's needs and, of course, respond to any requests for support by an 'ilamutu. On occasions such as funerals, the tu'asina assume deferential roles towards those in the category 'ilamutu or their descendants by performing tasks such as cooking, which in feast/funeral contexts clearly denote lower status. An 'ilamutu is considered to be fahu (‘free of restraint’ or ‘privileged to take liberties’) in relation to tu'asina, and the special nature of this relationship is ideally expressed in the toleration of the tu'asina for the 'ilamutu's unannounced seizure or indefinite borrowing of the former's possessions.

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A male ego refers to offspring of tu'asina by sibling terms, just as he refers to offspring of mehekitanga. But, inverse to the deferential behaviour of respect that he exhibits towards the latter, ego exhibits a behavioural orientation of superiority and fa'iteliha ‘pleasing oneself’ towards the former.

Finally, ego refers to all those kinsmen in his second ascending generation and above as kui, regardless of sex; ego refers to all those in his second descending generation and below as mokopuna, regardless of sex. Relationships between kui and mokopuna should be marked by joking, lack of restraint, and a general lack of concern about propriety concerning rights and obligations that in contrast characterises the ranked relationships among those in kin categories of ego's first ascending and descending generations.

This brief description of the organisation of Tongan kinship categories has dwelt on the normative behavioural correlates associated with the various categories. This normative description has limited use when one considers that the economic and social structural consequences of these ideal behaviours are an empirical question complicated by such factors as personality, wealth, and age of kinsmen involved in specific interactions. My own observations as well as Morton's study 9 indicate that the rank orientations associated with kinship categories influence, but in no way determine, the direction of flows of goods and services in exchanges, and the achievement of recognition for individual acts of skill and initiative alone.

Spillius notes, with regard to kinship rank, two important themes in Tongan history. 10 First, in terms of half-sibling relationships, relations among siblings of the same father are characterised by extreme status rivalry, while siblings of the same mother are mutually supportive and non-competitive. One is often told of this tendency by contemporary Tongans. It is and has been an explicit indigenous formulation of the consequences of distinct emotive and status qualities typically associated with the father's and mother's kin groups. Second, in gaining power and authority over people and land in traditional Tonga (that is, in becoming a chief) the support of an aspirant's mother's people has repeatedly been a key factor in his success. Spillius has demonstrated this importance in traditional politics of support of mother's people, for those in the category of sister's children or descendants, from the rise of the secular Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship at the centre of society to the local assertion of authority by chiefs on the periphery.

Of major interest here, however, are two interrelated issues which concern the links between the organisation of rank within the kāinga and within the domain of ‘eiki/chiefly status attribution. First, in modern Tonga and presumably before, the two core axes of status differentiation in Tongan kinship — the authority status of fathers over children and the prestige status of sisters over brothers — are commonly expressed by analogous use of the 'eiki-tu'a dichotomy from the domain of ‘eiki/chiefly - 26 status classification. The tamai ‘father’ is ‘eiki to his children, while sisters are ‘eiki to their brothers who are tu'a to them. The transmission in succession and inheritance of authority and goods is (as a rule) through males — the father is a like a chief and vice versa — while the transmission of ‘eiki-like honour is (as a rule) through females — the sister and her children are like sino'i 'eiki.

In both domains of ‘eiki/chiefly status classification and kinship rank, the difference between authority and honour is important in organising status attribution. In the domain of ‘eiki/chiefly status classification, title as marking chiefly authority contrasts with blood descent (emanating from the sacred kingship) as marking aristocratic honour, while in the domain of kinship ranking, the authority role of males (epitomised as the tamai or father) contrasts with the honouring of female status or status through females (epitomised as the sister and sister's children). Furthermore, both domains are characterised by the connotative and extended use of the concept of ‘eiki to express the value of both positions of authority and prestige, outside the strict application of the ‘eiki concept to the Tu'i Tonga sino'i 'eiki. Just as the valuation of 'eiki, strictly applying only to sino'i 'eiki, is loosely extended to honour authority of chiefs in local contexts, so the 'eiki-tu'a contrast as a value is loosely applied to the authority of males as fathers and to the prestige or sacredness of sisters and their children.

The second issue is that the origins of this connection between ‘eiki/chiefly and kinship rank classification are obscure and indeterminate. An important question is whose system of kinship rank has this been traditionally. Early European accounts describe the customs of chiefs and leave the impression that commoners or tu'a are beneath consideration, or that, in contrast to chiefs, commoners have no distinctive values or social organisation at all. Part of the problem is perhaps an artefact of European observers (mainly English) who naturally understood Tongan society in terms of a model by which they conceived of their own monarchical societies — the division of society into neat and abstract strata of exclusive classes or orders with a single, paramount kingship at the apex. Perceptive observers such as Cook and Mariner overcame their biases to some degree, especially with regard to the complexity of the kingship, but the tendency to view society divided into horizontal classes persisted in their reports. As a result, it is problematic who the commoners were in traditional Tonga, if there were, in fact, commoners at all as a clearly identifiable class.

A popular view among contemporary, recognised indigenous “experts” on Tongan traditions is that Tongan society was and is now “aristocentric” (as one informant termed it). 11 Most customs, including those concerned - 27 with the organisation of rank within the kāinga, originated with and were most elaborately and sophisticatedly practised by the aristocrats, the sino'i ‘eiki. These customs were in turn emulated, increasingly corrupted and modified in practice, down a social hierarchy from men of chiefly authority or title to their lowliest subjects. Aristocratic custom was most highly valued in the society and served as a model for the organisation of relationships at all levels. This is reflected in the analogous extensions and loose applications of the dichotomy 'eiki-tu'a in expressing contextual relationships between chief and subjects and within kin groups.

The implication of this view for modern Tonga is that since contact and the reforms of Tupou I, which broke down the hierarchical societal organisation of ranked lineage segments, ‘eiki custom in its most refined aspects has virtually disappeared as Tongans have become organised in Western-style nuclear family (fāmili) units. Free from the tight control of chiefs, most contemporary Tongans (commoners as well as most of the modern nobility) practise an attenuated form of old Tongan custom, which is only maintained by the royal family and a few knowledgeable persons who are not ignorant of the past. The organisation of kinship rank and its expression through the 'eiki-tu'a analogy is a remannt of the emulative/ranked segmentary organisation of Tongan custom before contact.

This modern historical ideology serves as an explanation of the contemporary and past parallels between rank within the kinship and ‘eiki/chiefly domains. In the past, ranked lineage segments emulated ‘eiki custom because the ‘eiki style of the kingship was the supreme value of honour in the society and not because individuals thought they were in fact ‘eiki (in the sense of being sino'i ‘eiki). Now, within their independent family units on securely held plots of bush land, Tongans have lost a sense of the chiefly origins of their culture and no longer associate the practice of kinship rank as an inferior emulated version of the ‘eiki/chiefly status domain. It should be noted that the view here expressed disregards the considerable influence of European lifestyle as a partial replacement for the previously unchallenged valuation and emulation of ‘eiki customs and lifestyle. The influence of this “European alternative” will be discussed in the next chapter in relation to the lifestyle of the modern nobility.

Given the notion that ranking principles associated with kin relations were largely the concern of those who were recognised as possessing some - 28 ‘eiki/chiefly status in traditional Tonga, it is appropriate now to explain the principles through which ‘eiki/chiefly status was transmitted through marriage and heredity. A child's ‘eiki/chiefly status is and presumably was determined by an evaluation of the relative, composite mix of the statuses of its mother and father. However, more weight is given to the status of the mother than that of the father in evaluating the overall ‘eiki/chiefly status of the child. According to an expression still common in Tonga, tama tu‘unga he fa‘ē ‘the child has the status of its mother’. The context of such an attribution is of course exclusive: one's precise ‘eiki/chiefly status is relevant only if either or both parents claim some form of ‘eiki/chiefly status themselves.

The ideal is obviously for the ‘eiki/chiefly child to be well balanced, that is, for both of its parents to have some ‘eiki/chiefly status attribution, but there is greater prestige in deriving ‘eiki/chiefly status from the mother. At present, as in the past, it has been common for men and women of ‘eiki/chiefly status to produce children with partners of both ‘eiki/chiefly and commoner status (in legitimate — now Christian — and illegitimate unions). A male child of a chiefly father, but a commoner mother, is still considered chiefly, but is sometimes ridiculed as ngesi taha ‘half-shelled’ — having only a chiefly father and lacking the basis of that which defines one as truly chiefly, a mother of ‘eiki/chiefly status. This is not a symmetrical attribution, however. A male child with a commoner father but a chiefly mother will enjoy the prestige or honour of being ‘eiki/chiefly through his mother's blood, though he normally inherits his father's position in society — in terms of property, wealth, or title — which may be quite lowly. Such a situation often results in an anomaly where a person of ‘eiki/chiefly status through his mother is dependent upon a kin group without ‘eiki/chiefly associations (given that the father has children by more than one woman). The situation is sometimes resolved by the child being raised by its mother's people, but at other times the ‘eiki/chiefly child simply remains among its father's people and enjoys superior status.

A further complication in the composite determination of a person's ‘eiki/chiefly status is its generational relativity. For example, a daughter of a man who possessed ‘eiki/chiefly status and a woman who did not would be considered chiefly, but in the sense equivalent to ngesi taha (though usually only men are referred to by this phrase). Now whether this woman marries a man of ‘eiki/chiefly status or not, her children would be considered to possess ‘eiki/chiefly status through her. This example illustrates that women are by no means the only source of ‘eiki status, but are the preferred channels of its transmission. A woman deriving her ‘eiki/chiefly status in the less preferred way (through the father) in one generation can transmit ‘eiki/chiefly status in the preferred way (through the mother) to her children in the following generation.

The determination of the most aristocratic and highest ‘eiki/chiefly status in traditional Tonga, and to some extent today, depended on the degree of specifically sino‘i ‘eiki (Tu‘i Tonga) “blood” in an individual's genealogy on both sides, reckoning as far back in time as possible. Calculating relative aristocratic status would proceed by counting the - 29 number of links through women from some ego to the “target” person (usually a Tu'i Tonga) with more important weighting given to a larger number of such links through ego's mother's line. The pedigrees of such aristocrats might be comparatively evaluated by the cumulative numbers of such intervening female links. This sort of rarified reckoning is not unambiguous, since aristocratic genealogies of different individuals are characteristically quite dense, intertwined, and redundant. Also, factors such as chiefly authority and titleholding, especially of those who are intermediate descendants between ego and the “target” Tu'i Tonga, are taken into account in evaluating a person's composite ‘eiki/chiefly status. This extreme type of aristocratic reckoning clearly illustrates the significance of the transmission of ‘eiki/chiefly status through females, whether it be transmission of sino'i ‘eiki direct from a Tu'i Tonga or of the ‘eiki/chiefly statuses from various intermediate titles or chiefships, which fluctuate over generations.

In summary, the relationship of the conceptually related domains of kinship ranking and ‘eiki/chiefly ranking are commonly explained by contemporary Tongans contextually and in terms of balance. 12 Each domain has its social contexts and its own rules which should not conflict. A person of ‘eiki/chiefly status can be of lower kinship rank than a person of lower relative ‘eiki/chiefly status or vice versa, depending upon the context. For example, a person of chiefly authority in certain contexts must defer to his sister's children, even if they are his subjects and their father possesses no chiefly status.

Although the majority of traditional customs and institutions ap ear not to have survived the missionary censorship of the nineteenth century, two ritual complexes which have survived — the funeral and the kavadrinking ceremony — serve as foci for public demonstrations of kinship and ‘eiki/chiefly rank respectively. Funerals are occasions for the gathering of the bilateral kāinga of the deceased. Performance of funeral activities is allocated on the basis of ‘eiki and tu'a kin roles in relation to the deceased. Supposedly, the funeral ritual is a static, snapshot view of the ideal ongoing ranked statuses of the participants through time. Although the funerals of chiefs are different in form and degree of ritual from those of commoners, the activities in terms of the organisation of the kāinga are essentially similar. Notably, both Tongan informants and writers on Tongan society invariably refer to the frequently occurring funeral rituals to elucidate principles of kinship ranking, presumably operative in ongoing social relations outside such contexts. 13 Although the activities of the funeral certainly illustrate the ideology of kinship rank that has been outlined in this section, there is no justification for assuming that these principles in any way definitely govern or explain ongoing social processes. As suggested, the outline of Tongan kinship rank presented here describes an ideology which at best defines broad behavioural orientations in social - 30 relations outside marked ritual contexts.

The kava drinking ceremony is part of most public occasions in Tonga and is perhaps the central ritual complex of the society. It is performed on three levels of formality: the taumafakava ‘king's kava’ is the ritually most intricate and formal version; the 'ilo kava ‘chief's kava’ is emulative and somewhat less formal than the king's kava; and the fai kava is completely informal, with unstructured interaction and a minimum of ritual in the preparation and serving of the kava beverage. The ritual associated with the drinking of kava alters in the presence or absence of a person of ‘eiki/chiefly status. The origin of kava drinking in Tonga is uncertain, but there have been royal kava ceremonies for centuries.

The ritual action in the taumafakava and 'ilo kava begins with the preparation of the beverage from the kava root by the to'a ‘kava-maker’ sitting behind a large wooden bowl (kumete) in which the ground root is mixed with water. The to'a sits opposite the major chief at the head position (olovaha). The sides of the circle (fasi) are composed of other titled chiefs and their matāpule ‘ceremonial attendants’. The matāpule sitting to the right of the major chief oversees the preparation of the beverage and the distribution of cups of kava to those sitting in and outside the 'alofi ‘circle’, according to their traditional rankings by title. The presiding matāpule calls a precise set of commands to the to'a and other attendants who serve the kava. A food presentation is placed in the interior of the circle, and the major chief's matāpule also oversees the division and distribution of food portions to those in the circle. The food distribution is conducted in connection with the first, most formal, round of drinking. The initial round may or may not be accompanied by subsequent rounds, repeating the same ritual order. 14

The arrangement of the Tu'i Tonga kava circle reflected the major descent groupings into which the Tongan population was divided, through the ordered seating of the major holders of ‘eiki/chiefly status. The arrangement of the royal kava circle of the present Tu'i Kanokupolu has been greatly modified, but is still based on the ordered seating of the major titled chiefs in modern Tonga (that is, the nobility). The rank of one's title or one's position in the kava ceremony has nothing directly to do with the comparative kinship rank among the frequently related holders of chiefly positions at any one time. Rather, the organisation of titles and chiefly positions in the king's kava reflects cumulative historical relationships among the titles and chiefly positions themselves as distinct from their holders. A royal kava ceremony is a snapshot, a momentary state in the gradual historical development of the ‘eiki/chiefly domain of rank.

Although not all those of ‘eiki/chiefly status in the society participate in the king's kava, the activity of drinking kava, at whatever level it - 31 occurs, is sensitive in form and ritual association to the presence or absence of a person of recognised 'eiki/chiefly status. Just as the funeral as a ritual context is used to explain the appropriate recognition of various statuses of kinship rank, so the kava ceremony is chosen as a ritual context to explain how 'eiki/chiefly status is recognised and honoured.

A person has different rankings in different contexts which usually provide a variety of statuses in his life. In thise sense, no man is without some sort of 'eiki or 'eiki-like honour during periods of his life. Even a man of no chiefly status is “like a chief” as a father and head of his household. Conceptually, the gulf between chief and subject, between those of 'eiki/chiefly status and commoners, is never an abyss because any such apparent class distinction is countered by the cross-cutting bonds of kinship. Tongan informants pointed out the flexibility and balance in the domains of status determination by suggesting that individuals were and are compensated for lack of rank in one domain or context by recognition of a status of similar honour in another domain or context.

The Sacred/Secular Kingships and the Decline of the Tu'i Tonga

Before the establishment of the monarchy, Tonga was governed for over two centuries by a dual kingship (see Chapter 1): a sacred kingship, which became more and more involuted as a semi-divine institution, embodying the well-being of the society; and a secular kingship, which, in the name of the sacred Tu'i Tonga, consolidated support among diverse, regional groupings, and which had been previously linked, however loosely, to the single royal line through an ideology of descent.

The major societal groupings were the ha'a. They expressed and acted out this descent ideology to varying degrees in the performance of rituals focusing on the Tu'i Tonga. According to Spillius, 15 ha'a originally meant “people of such-and-such a place” — denoting locality more than descent. Presently, and perhaps since the division of the sacred/secular kingships, ha'a most commonly denotes a group descended from a king's sons who did not succeed to the kingship themselves. The ha'a, as a concept of organisation in this sense, was developed and refined under the secular kingships. In fact, the establishment of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship can be associated with the successful organisation of branching lines of descent into support ha'a, ranked as separate lines by order of descent from one of the three kingships and ranked internally by seniority among brothers, from whom the ha'a originated. The ha'a and descent lines associated with Tu'i Tonga origin became known collectively as the Kauhala'uta ‘those of the inland side of the road’, while the ha'a and descent lines associated in origin with the secular kingship were known as Kauhalalalo ‘those of the lower or seaward side of the road’. Originally the Kauhalalalo was associated with the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua but became and continues to be associated with the Tu'i Kanokupolu.

While first the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua line and then the Tu'i Kanokupolu line were extending their authority over the people and islands of Tonga through the development of ha'a organisation, based on lines of descent - 32 originating with the initial installations of the respective secular kingships, the Tu'i Tonga line increasingly turned inward to intensify its own sacred status. The central Tu'i Tonga value of sino'i 'eiki was elaborated in contrast to the increasing authority of the non-'eiki secular kingships. The growing emphasis on the sacredness of the Tu'i Tonga kingship, as its secular influence waned, was reflected in the creation of the Tamahā position within the immediate kāinga of the Tu'i Tonga. This development occurred late in Tongan history at the time of the 24th Tu'i Tonga and notably after the initial sacred/secular split between the Tu'i Tonga and the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua. The treatment of the Tu'i Tonga's eldest sister (Tu'i Tonga Fefine) as a special ritual office and the creation of the Tamahā ‘exalted mother's child’ position for the latter's eldest female child appear to have been an elaboration of the principles of kinship rank, discussed above, which serve to elevate the status of women and women's children in the kāinga. Both the Tu'i Tonga Fefine and Tamahā were exclusive positions, each of which could be held by only one person at a time. They defined the persons of the highest possible rank in Tongan society, since in effect they out-ranked the Tu'i Tonga — a brother or maternal uncle — in terms of kinship rank criteria within the personal kāinga of the Tu'i Tonga, the source of sino'i 'eiki.

The Tu'i Tonga Fefine was the eldest living full-sister of the Tu'i Tonga. As an especially revered office which produced the Tamahā, the Tu'i Tonga Fefine could not be married to a Tongan, since no Tongan could qualify in terms of sino'i 'eiki rank to raise or even maintain the status of her children. The Tu'i Tonga Fefine, who bore the first Tamahā, was married to a Fijian chief. From this chief was derived a line of chiefs in Tonga known as the Fale Fisi, and their traditional role (only actually practised a few times in Tongan history) was to provide mates for the various Tu'i Tonga Fefine. Of course, given the highly exclusive criteria for assignment to these positions, they were in fact rarely occupied. However, the Tamahā and her mother, the Tu'i Tonga Fefine, and her mother's brother, the Tu'i Tonga, represented in principle the pinnacle of sacred status in Tonga from which all attributions of sino'i 'eiki status were reckoned. To those who were direct lineal descendants of these three positions were due, in varying degrees correlating with distance of descent, the elaborate rituals of demeanor and deference, embodied in the observance of a number of tapu and avoidances, that were directly accorded the actual holders of the three positions. Those who married into the kāinga of the lines of these exclusive positions could acquire associations with sino'i 'eiki, and might, in time and through their children, become loosely considered sino'i 'eiki.

Two further points concerning the development of the secular kingships are worth noting here. First, the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua and Tu'i Kanokupolu lines were not considered sino'i 'eiki, although eventually it was customary that these lines would contribute the major wife of the Tu'i Tonga (usually a virginal sister or daughter of the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua and later of the Tu'i Kanokupolu as the office of Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua declined). The heir to the Tu'i Tonga kingship would normally be the eldest male sibling of - 33 this union. By such a Tu'i Tonga-Tu'i Kanokupolu union, the future Tu'i Kanokupolu would be subordinate in kinship rank to the future Tu'i Tonga (the Tu'i Tonga's mother being a father's sister to the Tu'i Kanokupolu). Furthermore, as the Tu'i Tonga's mother's people, the proper role of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kāinga would be to support in a variety of ways their sister's child, the Tu'i Tonga.

Second, the Tu'i Kanokupolu line, which eventually became the solely appointed secular kingship, emphasised within its supporting ha'a the importance of titleholding as a sufficient condition of chiefly status. One's honour as a man of power and influence — a chief — was based on the holding of an hereditary title conferred by the secular king. This represented a change in the status of titleholding. Before the division of the Tu'i Tonga kingship, titles did not particularly serve as a mark of the power and authority of a chief, and were certainly subordinate to sino'i 'eiki status in marking aristocratic honour. The Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship has Samoan origins; the first Tu'i Kanokupolu's mother was a Samoan. This connection with Samoan chiefs was closely kept during the formation of the Tu'i Kanokupolu ha'a; Kanokuplou means ‘flesh (or substance) of Upolu’. Spillius has speculated 16 that the emphasis on title as a sufficient criterion for chiefly status was derived from the Samoan influence.

Undoubtedly, the principles of 'eiki/chiefly status attribution — blood, title, and authority — were in complex interaction in the affairs of Tonga before the division into sacred and secular kingships, but in broad terms the development of the separate kingships seems to have established a particular configuration of these principles which was to be the traditional mould from which the modern nobility was formed and the concept of 'eiki transmitted to modern Tonga. Most striking in this configuration was an increase in the importance of the criterion of titleholding in marking chiefly status. This criterion was in contrast to and offset by continued respect and prestige accorded to sino'i 'eiki, which had been refined by the creation of highly exclusive customs of descent, the measure of all claims to aristocratic honour. This configuration reflected the attempt of an old aristocracy to maintain its hold on a system of which it was still ideologically the master when the old system was gradually changing as new emphases were attached to old status elements. This change reflected a shift in the style as well as the legitimacy of kingly authority.


Machiavelli noted, “The kingdoms known to history have been governed in two ways: either by a prince and his servants, who, as ministers by his grace and permission, assist in governing the realm; or by a prince and by barons, who hold their positions not by favour of the ruler but by antiquity of blood. 17 Tāufa'āhau, appointed in 1845 as the nineteenth Tu'i Kanokupolu by consensus of the chiefs of the ha'a originating with the - 34 Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, 18 was clearly an example of the latter kind of “prince”, while the same Tāufa'āhau, who, as the Christian King George (Siaosi) Tupou I, proclaimed in 1875 a constitution to a newly formed parliament, composed largely of his chiefly supporters, was just as clearly an example of the former.

Tāufa'āhau's succession to the traditional kingship represents a continuity with and culmination of the gradual shift away from the supreme valuation of the Tu'i Tonga kingship, based on sacred power, to the equal, if not more greatly valued, Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, based on the primary honour of chiefly authority, marked by hereditary titleholding in ranked, named ha'a groups. Although always centralised symbolically been characterised by unco-ordinated, dispersed power held by those whose authority was regionally imposed. Tāufa'āhau's early rule as Tu'i Kanokupolu, within the centralised framework of Tongan kingship, represented perhaps a far greater degree of unification and consolidation than in any previous period, but this rule was based upon a delicate balance of support among ha'a groups of titled chiefs, who, despite their cohesion through an ideology of descent to the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, still held independent honour and authority over their own groups of subjects and kinsmen.

In one sense, the development of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship encouraged the dispersion of power even further. Just as the sino'i 'eiki style of the Tu'i Tonga was emulated throughout the kingdom, so the honour accorded secular authority in the development of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship undoubtedly had its effect in inflating the style and ambitions of titled chiefs under and beyond the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship.

Yet, the events of Tāufa'āhau's succession to the traditional kingship must be seen in the context of the forces of change that had been set in motion in Tonga by the success of a Wesleyan mission endeavour, begun in earnest in 1826. 19 Success in conversions occurred from the top down. Although there was stubborn resistance by some Tu'i Kanokupolu chiefs, the chiefs and followers of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship proved generally receptive to Christianisation.

Conversion and the advice of missionaries brought embryonic modernisation. In his rise to power as the Tu'i Kanokupolu, Tāufa'āhau established a rudimentary government in Vava'u in 1839, after he had peacefully acquired the informal title of Tu'i Vava'u from the previously unchallenged 'Ulukālala chiefs. 20 He proclaimed his first legal code in 1839 and successive versions in 1850 and 1862. These codes were loosely modelled on tenets of Christian morality and Western constitutions and laws. The apparent keynote of these early codes was reform of traditional society; - 35 most notable was an emancipation proclamation in the 1862 code, freeing the people of Tonga from all obligatory duties to their chiefs and including a clear submission of the power of the kingship to the rule of law. 21

The intent of Tupou's reforms was clearly to diminish, if not level, the structure of privilege in the traditional polity, while concentrating power in his secular kingship. This transformation posed a crucial problem for the monarch. Given the rise of the kingship through the support of chiefs, whose independence was itself enhanced by this rise, how were these chiefs to be accommodated in the formation of a state in which the monarch held concentrated power through a bureaucracy, replacing the chiefs' effective regional power?

The problem was not pressing as long as Tupou's moves towards a modern state were rudimentary and were addressed largely to the given realities of power among the dispersed chiefs. At the time, the emancipation proclamation must have been more of a prophecy than an immediately realised upheaval in the traditionally evolving structure of privilege. The chiefs, rather than their followers, were the audience for Tupou's early reformist proclamations, and positions in early government were occupied by chiefly supporters. At the same time, Christianity and its nascent church structure were spreading throughout the society. Although Tupou was the major ally and object of missionary endeavour, each chief was independently subject to the influence of the new ideas spread by the zealous efforts of both indigenous and European missionaries.

In 1875, the reformist stirrings of the previous decades crystallised in the formation of modern government institutions — first a constitution and parliament, and then the organisation of a bureaucracy. The need to act was motivated by fears for the independence of Tonga as the pace of colonisation increased in the Pacific and as the Australian Wesleyan Conference viewed its success in Tonga as moving towards further consolidation and control through church organisation.

The 1875 parliament and constitutional proclamation serve as a watershed in the historical consciousness of modern Tongans, marking the beginning of the era of “light” (or enlightenment) and bringing to a close the time of “darkness” (as Tupou I expressed it in his opening address to the first meeting of parliament.) With the crystallisation of the trend towards modernisation in 1875 came the need to solve the problem of the chiefs. The creation of a nobility was the solution. It is worth quoting and commenting at length upon Tupou's announcement concerning the formation of the nobility at the close of the inaugural meeting of parliament in 1875: 22

I will now refer to certain matters dictated by the Constitution. The Appointments of Nobles. I hear that some are dissatisfied because - 36 they were not called to this Assembly. That may be true but answer me this, when have I done anything unreasonable to hurt anyone's feelings? I will read out the names of the nobles and in case some of you might be hurt because your names are not included, The Constitution has this to say about it “The King will appoint 20 nobles.” How would it be then, is it not proper that the heads of the tribes with the most people be appointed? I endeavoured to appoint some of those who had conferred titles from every tribe. If some of you who are in this Legislative Assembly are not appointed then you must bear in mind that you had no conferred titles. If your father is appointed, you yourself ought to be contented with that, even if you have no one in Parliament, be contented. If you are not appointed a noble, that does not necessarily mean that you would be deprived of a post with the government and it's only a few who are now without a post. I am fully aware of those who bore the brunt of the work of the government in the days when it was still in its embryonic stages so they should have priority for posts over the new commers [sic].
You must remember that I was conferred with the following two titles during the meeting that was held in Vava'u, Tu'itonga and Tu'iha'atakalaua together with my own title of Tu'ikanokupolu. However I now desire to appoint paramount chiefs for the two dynasties as well as the Hangatatupu [sic] si [sic] I now confer the following titles and they are to be hereditary.

  • 1. Tungi and his descendants to be head of the Ha'atakalaua for ever.
  • 2. Kalaniuvalu and his descendants to be head of the Kauhala'uta for ever.
  • 3. Tupou Toutai and his descendants to be head of the Ha'angatatupu for ever.

Some may wonder as to why I confer titles on these three when each is a blue blooded chief in his own right. That is true enough but a constitution has been enacted by which unless one has been conferred by me with an hereditary title one cannot get in to Parliament as a noble hence these appointments.
These are the gentlemen I have appointed, they and their descendants, are to be the nobles of Parliament in accordance with the constitution.

  • 1. Tungi
  • 2. Nuku
  • 3. Ma'afu
  • 4. Lavaka
  • 5. Ve'ehala
  • 6. Ata
  • 7. Vaea
  • 8. Tu'ivakano
  • 9. Fakafanua
  • 1. Tu'ipelehake
  • 2. Niukapu
  • 3. Malupo
  • 4. Havea
  • 5. Tu'iha'angana
  • VAVA'U
  • 1. Kalaniuvalu
  • 2. Tupoutoutai
  • 3. Luani
  • 4. Tu'i'afitu
  • NIUA
  • 1. Fotofili
  • 1. Ma'atu
- 37

Some of you may think and hope that perhaps I will now confer all the herditary titles granting together with estates. It appears to me that this is something that should take time. If I am hasty and then have to cancel or reconsider some of the appointments, some of you are bound to be bitterly hurt, factions caused and you will inevitably be like a pack of carnivirous [sic] young wolves, so my good people, be patient. Time always lends a helping hand in solving human problems and removing the obstacles that hinder our progress. So until time has favoured us with the perspicacity to grasp things and solve these problems, let us be patient. One thing more I would like to ask, although you are now in possession of your lands, a word of advice would still be timely. Take your time and before you grant any lease ponder over the matter carefully. Make hast [sic] slowly so that you will not do anything that you may one day regret.

Lātūkefu suggests 23 that the idea of forming a nobility in the scheme of the new order was derived from the model of the Hawaiian Constitution of 1852, in which the King appointed 30 nobles for life. It is unclear whether the formation of the nobility was Tupou's own decision or that of Shirley Baker, a former missionary who fell out with the Wesleyans and, by 1880, was the Premier of the new government. Baker was extremely influential as a designer of the constitutional monarchy. 24

In any case, the legally defined hereditary nobility, with special privileges in both government position and control of Tonga's main resource of land, was the mode of accommodating the most powerful chiefs in Tonga at the time. Formal recognition of 'eiki/chiefly status in the new order was to be by hereditary estates. The criteria in selection were those chief-ships which controlled the most territory and subjects, regardless of whether they had been long-term supporters of Tupou. It is significant that the chiefs were listed by region rather than by ha'a position in the ideology of descent organisation. The latter mode of classification was and still is the more customary and preferred way of thinking about the organisation of the nobility. The regional listing of the new noble titles at the time, however, suggests the criteria of territorial power and influence on which they were selected for appointment.

The special and double listing of the three chiefs, Tungi, Kalaniuvalu, and Tupoutoutai, as the leaders of major descent-based organisations and as regional chiefs, is particularly significant. Although a radical reformer, Tupou was no revolutionary. Rather than abolish the traditional kingly lines, he sought to assimilate them through awarding chosen representatives of each line the honour of nobility in the new order, an honour formally and clearly defined as subordinate to the newly created kingship.

At the time, Tungi was an important leader, but neither Tupoutoutai nor Kalaniuvalu were strong chiefs in their own right. Tungi was a direct descendant of the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua kingship, which had long before ceased to be appointed. Kalaniuvalu was a son of the last Tu'i Tonga, who had died in 1865; this kingly title was not reappointed. Tupoutoutai, whose - 38 exact genealogical identity remains obscure, was a descendant of the 'Ulukālala chiefs. As leaders of a branch of the original ha'a of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, these chiefs had imposed strong regional control over Vava'u. In the early nineteenth century, they nearly accomplished the same unified leadership of Tonga in the traditional context as Tupou had later done as Tu'i Kanokupolu. All the chiefly names designated as noble titles in 1875 had been titles previously, while the names Kalaniuvalu, Tungi, and Tupoutoutai were just personal names. Kalaniuvalu and Tungi have gradually become formal titles. The name Tupoutoutai disappeared on his death and the more historically honorific name 'Ulukālala eventually was substituted as a formal title.

The singling out of these three positions in appointment reflects Tupou's interest in a smooth and cumulative transition in the reform and in the legitimacy of the kingship. The apparent aim of Tupou was to establish a dual legitimacy: as the king supreme over a reorganised traditional polity incorporating all major traditional divisions of the society, and as a modern constitutional monarch bringing the reforms of “light” to the period of darkness — reforms which dictated the direction of reorganisation of the traditional political order. The centuries-old division of sacred/secular kingships had finally been dissolved, but in favour of a secular kingship rather than a sacred one. As suggested, this return to a single kingship was clearly happening before contact, but the end result took its form from the new forces and ideas injected by contact.

An explanation of the assimilation of the Tu'i Tonga line by the Tupou/neo-Tu'i Kanokupolu dynasty is particularly instructive as well as crucial to an understanding of the transmission of the 'eiki concept to Tupou dynasty Tonga. In 1826, there was a confrontation between Laufilitonga, the heir to the Tu'i Tonga kingship, and Tāufa'āhau over the control of Ha'apai. Tāufa'āhau crushed this major challenge to his increasing power by forces specifically supporting the Tu'i Tonga. After his defeat, Laufilitonga returned to Vava'u, and shortly thereafter (1827) succeeded to the kingship, enjoying full privileges as the 'Eiki, the Tu'i Tonga. Somewhat later he became a supporter of the Catholic mission, which had arrived in Tonga rather late (only establishing itself in 1842) and which chose to promote its work of proselytising by aligning itself with the old kingship Laufilitonga, as the Tu'i Tonga, was nominally associated with a new confederation of chiefly factions, influenced by the Catholics, against Tāufa'āhau, but neither he nor his immediate kin had any independent military strength; their military power had been eliminated in the 1826 defeat. Thus, in the later struggle, the Tu'i Tonga faction participated but did not lead. Laufilitonga reportedly became a Catholic before he died in 1865.

As the formally appointed Tu'i Kanokupolu, Tāufa'āhau continued to rule in the name of the Tu'i Tonga and to respect the sanctity of his person. On the death of the Tu'i Tonga, Tāufa'āhau personally observed the long mourning period following his funeral. A subsequent Tu'i Tonga was not appointed nor was the position formally abolished. The situation of the Tu'i Tonga kingship was ambiguous from 1865 until 1875 when - 39 Tupou I appointed Kalaniuvalu as the head of the Kauhala'uta forever.

The following rationale concerning the status of the first Kalaniuvalu was provided to me by a noted authority on Tongan custom. Laufilitonga left behind 19 children by matings with 13 women. Kalaniuvalu was, in fact, a nephew (sister's son) of Tupou I and was in the correct genealogical position to be customary heir of the Tu'i Tonga. Since the division of the kingships, the heir to the Tu'i Tonga title was to have been the eldest male child of the Tu'i Tonga and a virginal sister of the Tu'i Kanokupolu. By design or accident, the half-sister of Tupou, who was to have borne the heir to the Tu'i Tonga as his wife, had produced a child with one of the chiefs of the Fale Fisi, the lines traditionally siring Tamahā. Subsequently, she produced twins with the Tu'i Tonga Laufilitonga. The male twin — Kalaniuvalu — should have been the heir to the Tu'i Tonga kingship, if it had not been that his mother was not a virgin at the time of her marriage to the Tu'i Tonga.

Sometime after the violent confrontation with Laufilitonga in 1826, Tāufa'āhau had mated with a woman (Lupe Pau'u) who had previously been a favoured wife of Laufilitonga; Tāufa'āhau sired two male children in this traditional marriage. This woman was of very high sino'i 'eiki rank in the traditional order and she eventually became Tupou I's Christiau wife. Under the strict laws of succession, the eldest male child of Tāufa'āhau's union with Lupe Pau'u would have been the heir to the kingship, but none of the children produced of this union survived. Instead, Tupou named his eldest surviving son, produced by another union to be his heir.

If there is validity in the above account, these mating relationships suggest the early interest of Tupou in absorbing the 'eiki qualities of the Tu'i Tonga into his blood line. They also demonstrate that he was scrupulous in observing custom in the transformation of the Tongan polity. Kalaniuvalu was indeed the proper heir to the Tu'i Tonga line, but not as the Tu'i Tonga. It was thus quite proper in customary terms for him to be the leader of the Kauhala'uta without being appointed the Tu'i Tonga, a measure which Tupou successfully and legitimately avoided. Although it was clearly a major interest of his to do so, Tupou failed to absorb sino'i 'eiki associations directly into his line, because of the death of his potential heir produced by his Christian, sino'i 'eiki wife. None the less, the descendants of the Tu'i Tonga twins — Kalaniuvalu and his sister — were to be of crucial importance in the marriage arrangements of Tupou's successors. 25

The purpose of this extended example and diversion has been to demonstrate that with the foundation of the new order, the importance of sino'i 'eiki, which had been an integral part of Tongan culture for centuries, did not disappear. To the contrary, the new monarch appears to have had a strong interest in creating a new legitimacy through the - 40 absorption and submergence of the concept of honour through sino'i eiki status into his own patriline. The new kingship was to integrate both sources of traditional honour — blood and authority.

To return to the discussion of the origin of the nobility, what then were the special privileges that Tupou was offering to his new nobility? Initially, the entire nobility was ensured membership in the King's Council, which the parliament appeared to be. Earlier, Tupou had held informal meetings of the chiefs to discuss plans for the new government, and it appeared that the parliament would continue as the main law-making and decision-taking body. This was not to be the case, but at the time, participation in the parliament appeared an important matter and guarantee to the chiefs, named nobles, of their continuing political importance. The other privilege was the holding of formal estates to be inherited with the noble titles. The definition of these estates remained vague for a number of years, and, essentially, the chiefs-cum-nobles were permitted to continue their exercise of authority over areas with which they had traditionally been associated or that they had acquired in the disruptions of Tupou's rise to power. While guaranteeing the nobles a hereditary right to estates in the future, Tupou shrewdly left the precise contingencies of control over these estates unstated.

And what of the numerous others in Tonga who were of 'eiki/chiefly status, but who were excluded from the nobility and parliament? It is notable that Tupou created no new titles in his appointments, but rather favoured titles created in the rise of the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, during which titleholding, which marked authority, became the formally recognised criterion of chiefly honour preferred over aristocratic blood descent. Tupou consoled those excluded from the nobility with the promise of preference in appointment to government office, thus signalling a new arena of mobility and status aspiration, equivalent in some respects to the old arena of 'eiki/chiefly status attribution. He also held out the possibility that the nobility might be expanded in the future by the addition of titles. The Constitution provided for the election of People's Representatives to parliament, and chiefly persons, excluded from the nobility, were eligible to enter parliament technically as commoners. 26

As he did not abolish the Tu'i Tonga title, so Tupou did not abolish the 'eiki/chiefly status of the many who were then recognised as such. Rather, he effectively diminished their status by excluding them from the new sector of privilege — the nobility. The overall emphasis of Tupou's change was egalitarian in nature; it appeared that if one were not included within the legally defined sphere of privilege, one would be caught in the basically levelling reforms. In terms of the law, all but the nobles and royal family would be commoners, and those of 'eiki/chiefly status who were excluded from the nobility would have to informally manipulate the remaining respect for chiefly leadership and 'eiki honour among the population in order to retain some vestige of their former positions.

- 41

An important feature of Tupou's reforms of 1875, which are viewed by Tongans as a decisive watershed and sudden transformation in their history, is that, in fact, nothing occurred abruptly. The monarch seemed satisfied either to leave details of the reforms undefined or to defer indefinitely the consequences of his actions. By honouring the most powerful men in the society through reforms, the consequences of which no one could probably foresee at the time, and by not attempting to define the status of those excluded from the formal sector of privilege by leaving the issue of informal 'eiki status ambiguous, Tupou succeeded in initiating reforms that eventually demolished the basis of traditional privilege of the very men of 'eiki/chiefly status who brought him to kingly power. There appears to have been no outcry on the part of the excluded interests in the society or of the new nobility in the wake of the 1875 events, because at the time the changes perhaps did not immediately disrupt the distributions of power, but merely set the stage for the development of a government bureaucracy and the more gradual centralisation of power in the new kingship.

In 1880, Tupou added 10 more titles to the nobility. At the same time, he appointed six of the matāpules ‘ceremonial attendants’ to hereditary titles and estates. These men served as attendants to the king in his kava ceremonies and had traditionally important specialised roles, officiating at royal funerals and serving as navigators on royal voyages. 27 Tupou II (reigning 1893-1918) appointed two additional noble titles. 28 Queen Sālote (reigning 1918-65) appointed one further noble title, Tupouto'a, in 1924, which eventually became the title held by the Crown Prince. 29 - 42 In all, then, 33 noble titles have been appointed in Tonga. The current Constitution of Tonga, 30 like the one proclaimed in 1875, provides for the King's prerogative to appoint “titles of honour and to confer honourable distinctions”, 31 but it is not lawful for him to deprive any of those appointed to hereditary titles of their titles except in cases of treason (no mention is made specifically regarding removal of hereditary estates). As can be seen, limited use has been made of this prerogative by the successors of Tupou I.

1   Spillius 1960a.
2   The other major contemporary reconstructions of traditional Tonga society are Gifford's 1929 study based on his expedition to Tonga, and Goldman's 1970 analysis of Tongan society based on published sources and his encompassing evolutionary framework. The Wesleyan scholars Collocott n.d. and Wood 1932 have published histories of Tonga which have had great impact locally on Tongans' sense of their past, since these histories have been used as school texts. Collocott was perhaps the major early twentieth century scholarly source in the Pāpalangi world for information on traditional Tonga. He published a number of papers, 1919, 1921a, 1921b, 1921c, 1922, 1923a, 1923b, 1924, 1927, and 1928, and has left behind a large number of unpublished papers and notebooks (which I have not seen). Urbanowicz 1972 recently completed ethnohistorical research on Tonga. Spillius' (Bott's) account is still the best available (but in unfortunately limited circulation).
3   1970.
4   Discussion of kinship rank will depart from the emphasis in this section on conditions in precontact Tonga, but will instead slide between past and present time perspectives. The present tense will be used, but it will be assumed that what is true now of Tongan kinship was generally true before. This is sometimes clearly an unwarranted assumption, but just as clearly, the domain of kinship ranking has been the most durable element of traditional culture that has survived into the contemporary period. Consequently, the work of Gifford and Spillius suffers from the failure to demarcate sharply past from present or vice versa in their discussions of the normative bases of kinship behaviour. This results in a certain amount of confusion for the reader as to when particular customs or behaviours described were (or still are) practised in Tonga. The probable source of this confusion and difficulty in managing analytical time perspectives regarding kinship is that the accounts are derived from informants who themselves merge historical ideology or beliefs about the past with beliefs and understandings of the present. The timelessness with which kinship relations are described indicates that values from pre-Constitutional kingship, embodying ideals of rank as well as accepting obligation as a way to gain honour in the context of hierarchy, have survived most authentically in beliefs about the domain of kinship and domestic relations.
5   1971:177.
6   Other contemporary descriptions of kinship are included in Goldman 1970, Morton 1972, Gifford 1929, Rogers 1968 and 1975, and Spillius 1960a and 1960b.
7   See Collocott 1923b.
8   Morton 1972.
9   1972.
10   1960a.
11   The contemporary experts on Tongan traditions predictably come largely from the families of some of the surviving titled chiefs — the nobility — especially those in close association, through kin or affinal links, with the present royal family. There are also experts among those families with recognised claims to important associations by descent with those of past high ‘eiki/chiefly status. In addition, there are a few Tongans with no chiefly pretension at all whose opinions on Tongan culture are respected. Under Queen Sālote, a Tongan Traditions Committee was founded to research Tongan custom and promulgate authoritative interpretations. With passing generations, however, the numbers of Tongans with an interest in or knowledge of traditional lore are declining, and the population will become increasingly dependent on the views of a small number of elites — both traditional and emerging — for informed views about the status and practice of particular customs. In a rank-conscious society such as Tonga, recognised traditional knowledge has always been correlated with elite social status, but as those professing traditional expertise become even fewer in number and more exclusively associated with the kingship (by blood or office), it is not surprising that the view which sees the essence of Tongan society as its aristocentricity derives from and is held by an elite, aristocratic source. Regardless of the numbers who understand or are interested in understanding Tongan customs, customary matters will directly or indirectly have an important influence on Tongan affairs as long as an effective traditional monarchy survives.
12   From my research, I found that Tongans speak very explicitly about rank protocol, almost in terms of rules, for which the situation rather than the persons involved should ideally define appropriate standards of behaviour for participant roles.
13   See, for example, Kaeppler 1971:177-8.
14   For descriptions and analyses of elaborate kava ceremonies, see Bott and Leach 1972, Collocott 1927, Gifford 1929, and Newell 1947. The informal fai kava has been generally ignored ethnographically (see, however, Beaglehole and Beaglehole 1941 and Lemert 1967), perhaps because of its unstructured nature, but also because of the traditional, chiefly-oriented interests of recent observers for which the elaborate King's kava has been a focus.
15   1960a.
16   1960a.
17   Quoted in Huntington 1968:148.
18   Normally, the eldest male child of the major wife would succeed to the Tu'i Tonga and Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua kingships, but there was a process of election of the successor to a deceased Tu'i Kanokupolu among the major ha'a chiefs under the Tu'i Kanokupolu kingship, led by the two Ha'a Ngata chiefs, Ata and Ve'ehala. Although the successor chosen was typically the eldest male child of the deceased, it was not a foregone conclusion, as it normally was with the other kingships.
19   See Lātūkefu 1974 and Rutherford 1971 for excellent published accounts of the turbulent, nineteenth century period of change.
20   See Martin 1827.
21   In the post-Constitutional versions of the law, however, the relationship of the kingship to the law is not unambiguous. In the 1850 Code, the power of the chiefs was still respected in embryonic law, but by the 1862 Code, chiefly power was severely reduced in legal definition by a statute of emancipation. See Lātūkefu 1974: 228, 247-8.
22   Originally published in the Tonga Government Gazette in 1875 and reprinted in Hunter 1963:3-5.
23   1974:211.
24   See Rutherford 1971.
25   The mother's father of Queen Sālote was the son of Laufilitonga's twin daughter, the sister of Kalaniuvalu. There was a major controversy surrounding Tupou's II marriage to Lavinia, the mother of Sālote and the granddaughter of Kalaniuvalu's sister. Tupou II chose as his Queen, Lavinia, over a woman, 'Ofa, from the Tungi family, who was the choice of a large chiefly faction. Ironically, Sālote married the then Tungī a generation later (see Fig. 1).
26   In fact, the names of many of the people's representatives in the early parliaments following 1875 are those of men from 'eiki/chiefly families, who were not recognised in the legal nobility.
27   The 1880 noble titles included 'Ahome'e, Fakafanua, Fielakepa, Vaha'i, Tangipā, Tu'i Lakepa, Fohe, Fulivai, Fakatulolo, and Tuita. The last mentioned three titles (with estates in Vava'u) had been high-ranking specialised matāpule titles under previous kings, which Tupou I elevated to the chiefly status of nobility. The matāpule titles included in the formal title system and given hereditary estates are 'Akau'ola, Fotu, Afu (Ha'alaufuli), Motu'a puaka, Lauaki, and Tu'uhetoka. The hereditary matāpules have the same legal rights as nobles except for the parliamentary privileges of the nobility from which they are excluded. These matāpule titles are an integral part of the title system, and much of what is said regarding nobles in this study also applies to the hereditary matāpules, especially with regard to estate holding.
28   These are the Veikune and Lasike titles. Both titles had been personal or family names of the original titleholders, which became hereditary titles after their appointment to the nobility by Tupou II. The first Veikune noble was of 'eiki status derived from Kauhala'uta (Tu'i Tonga) associations. He was an important figure in Tupou II's administration as Minister of Finance and was involved in a scandal involving mishandling of funds, but was eventually cleared of charges made against him. Presumably Veikune was appointed to a title as a reward for his loyal service to Tupou II. Lasike had also been an officeholder in the administration of Tupou II, but the reason for his entitlement is more obscure.
29   Queen Sālote created the title Tupouto'a (the name of the father of Tupou I, himself a Tu'i Kanokupolu) with associated estates for a kinsman, Mateialona, who was a grandson of Tupou I. Mateialona was a prominent figure in government (as Premier) during the reign of Tupou II (who was his classificatory sororal nephew) and had been involved in a complex scandal, one result of which was a royal commitment to bestow a title on him. Queen Sālote fulfilled the commitment. Mateialona, who had continued to hold government office during Queen Sālote's reign, for a short time as Minister of Lands, received his title in 1924. He died three years later without an heir. The title remained vacant until Queen Sālote bestowed it upon her son and heir, in honour of his return from overseas education in the early 1940s. The Tupouto'a title and estates were to be from that time reserved for the Crown Prince, who would yield them to his heir, after succeeding to the kingship.
30   In the Law of Tonga 1967.
31   Constitution of Tonga: Clause 44.