Project Canterbury

Colonial Church Histories: New Zealand

Containing the Dioceses of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Waiapu, Wellington, and Melanesia.

By Henry Jacobs

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1887.

Part I. The Missionary Period.

Chapter II. Marsden's Second Visit--State of Mission--Seminary at Paramatta--Rev. J. Butler--First Celebration of Holy Communion--Trading for Muskets--Marsden's Third Visit--Hongi and Kendall go to England--Character of Hongi--Change in his Conduct--Ordination of Kendall --His Behaviour Professor Lee, and the [vii/viii] Maori Language--Paralysis of Mission--The Rev. H. Williams--Marsden's Fourth Visit--Settlement of the Rev. H. Williams at Paihia--Wreck of the Bramp-ton

Mr Marsden reached Sydney, accompanied by ten chiefs, on the 23rd March, 1815. Four years and a half passed away before the constant pressure of his duties in New South Wales permitted him to visit New Zealand again. It cannot be said that Christi-anity had made any marked advance in the interval; those good and earnest men, King and Hall, had doubtless done their very best, according to their light, to spread the knowledge of the truth; but their want of power to acquire the native language was an effectual bar to any great success. Kendall, who was their superior in knowledge and attainments, though not to be compared with them in point of character, had written a prayer and a short elementary catechism in Maori. A schoolroom also had been built, and from fifty to a hundred children were taught in it; but the scholars could only be retained by feeding and clothing them; and, when food failed, the school [22/23] was broken up, and the master had to follow his scholars into the bush. Altogether, these lay mission-aries cannot be said to have gained much hold upon the people. It is not a little wonderful, indeed, con-sidering the extreme difficulty of the work, and the dangers by which they were surrounded, that they had even been able to hold their own. They were no longer shielded by Ruatara's friendly protection, nor encouraged by his enthusiasm: Hongi, his uncle, was their friend, but he dwelt many miles off at Waimate, and was not at hand to defend them from the threats and insults, the petty annoyances, and the occasional menacing alarms, to which they were subject from their immediate neighbours. So far, moreover, from being a patriot, like his nephew, this man's whole soul was bent on personal aggrandisement. The ter-rible isolation of that small band of pioneers ought never to be forgotten; neither was it a contemptible work which they achieved, if they only paved the way for the abler men who succeeded them. Judging from the tenor of their own reports to the Society at home, they do not appear to have held their own work in any high esteem. In the meantime the true work of the mission was being carried on by its founder at his seminary at Paramatta. His aim was to prevail on the leading chiefs to send their sons to this institution, or to come themselves; and, when they returned to their homes, after being for some time under his influence, they appeared unlike the same persons. In February, 1820, he says, in a letter to the Home Society, that "nothing has tended more to the civilisation of the natives, than the chiefs and their sons visiting New [23/24] South Wales"; and adds, that "it is very pleasing to see the sons of the rival chiefs living with me, and forming mutual attachments . . . . They will form attachments which will destroy that jealousy, which has kept their tribes in continual war." It is evident, however, that more life and activity, and more aggressive measures were called for on the field of the work itself; there was a crying need, above all, for the appointment of an able and zealous priest to head the mission. The Committee of the C.M.S. fully recog-nised this necessity; but, in those days a competent man could not readily be found. Their first choice was, unfortunately, not a very happy one. The Rev. John Butler, with his wife and two children, left England for Port Jackson in December, 1818, and the special occasion of Mr. Marsden's second visit to the Bay of Islands, where he arrived on the 12th August, 1819, was to establish this clergyman at his post. He stayed there about three months, and succeeded in settling Mr. Butler, with a schoolmaster and a master me-chanic, who had come with him from England, at a place called Keri-Keri, on land to the extent of 13,000 acres bought of Hongi for four dozen axes. The new settlement was called "Gloucester," a name which has vanished, not only from the map, but from the memory of man. The selection caused keen delight to Hongi, and equal disgust to his neighbour and rival, Koro-koro; for the chiefs were not slow to learn that the protectorship of a mission station conferred upon them secular advantages and distinction of an enviable kind. Mr. Marsden's second visit, which lasted about three months, was rendered memorable by the first celebration of the Holy Communion in New Zealand, which took place on the 5th September, 1819, Mr. Marsden celebrating, assisted by Mr. Butler. There were as yet no native communicants; but the opportunity must have been welcomed indeed by those few English church people so long isolated from the Means of Grace, to whose number, few at the most, some additions had been made from time to time in the course of the preceding five years.

About this time a great trouble arose, which well-nigh wrecked the mission. The cause was the passionate desire of the natives to obtain muskets and powder, the possession of which put their enemies at their mercy, and enabled them to wreak a cruel ven-geance upon them. Now the difficulty became a very serious one, when they demanded these imple-ments of war in exchange for their pork and potatoes--the principal articles of food--which the missionaries were not always able to raise in sufficient quantity to supply the wants of their families. At the same time the increasing visits of whaling ships to the Bay, both tended to make provisions scarce, and afforded a market to the producers, which made them indepen-dent of the custom of the missionaries. It was a sore temptation to hungry people to have food brought to them, and taken away again, with the insolent taunt that "the captains would give them a good musket and a quantity of powder for such articles." It was the same with the supply of timber. William Hall reports that "they would not look at him, unless he had a new musket in his hand. They would neither work nor saw timber to any extent but for [25/26] muskets and powder. Almost every one who comes to Keri-Keri demands these articles." At the same time the missionaries could not shut their eyes to the certainty, that to put these into the hands of the natives was to arm them straightway for bloodshed and cannibalism. Writing in 1819, Kendall says, "War is all their glory. They travel to the south, and kill great numbers. Almost the whole of the men belonging to this Bay are now gone to battle." The Committee of the C.M.S. felt bound accordingly to take a decided stand in this matter, and, acting under Mr. Marsden's advice, drew up Regulations of Barter, of which this was the principal one:--"No muskets, powder, ball, or other implements of war, must be on any account employed as articles of barter, in carrying on traffic with the natives, or fur-nished to them in any other way." Mr. Marsden, who arrived at the Bay of Islands on his third visit in H.M.S. Dromedary on the 20th February, 1820, and remained in the country on this occasion for nine months, urged, with his accustomed decision, the necessity of persevering in this self-denying course at all risks. He held a meeting of the settlers at Rangihoua, when they bound themselves in the most solemn manner to adhere to the Society's regulations. Writing to the Society, about a month later, he said, " I have explained to all the neighbouring chiefs, that the settlers must not barter with them on any account with muskets and powder; and that, if they will not supply them with what they want, they must return to Port Jackson." This threat proved effectual for a time. "None of them," he says," will hear of the [26/27] settlers leaving them." So deeply, however, was he impressed with the importance of the subject, that he went on to say, "I think it much more to the honour of religion, and the good of New Zealand, even to give up the mission for the present, than to trade with the natives in these articles." The evil reached its climax in the visit to England of Hongi, and his brother-in-law, Waikato, brother of the lamented Ruatara, in company with Mr. Kendall; of the results of which visit we shall presently speak. They were on the eve of leaving New Zealand when Mr. Marsden arrived on his third visit, and were away about eighteen months. This good man, with all his shrewdness and penetration, was terribly deceived in Hongi. In his journal of his second visit, he writes, "Hongi is a man of the mildest manners and disposition, and appears to possess a very superior mind." Under this fair exterior he concealed the most unbounded and unscrupulous ambition; and the one supreme object of his visit to England was, to obtain arms and ammunition sufficient to supply his whole tribe, and thus to carry all before him, and slay and make captive at his pleasure. The chiefs met with much attention and kindness from many of the first people in England, including the sovereign, George IV., who gave them many valuable presents. Hongi's share of these, when he reached Sydney, was converted into muskets and powder; and almost directly on his return to his native country, he commenced a war of extermination, directed chiefly against the natives of the Thames district--a war which was accompanied by all the [27/28] horrors of cannibalism, and continued for many years, not ceasing even with the death of this enter-prising, but cunning and savage chief.

His return to New Zealand, moreover, caused sad trouble and disquiet to the settlers, especially those at Keri-Keri. From motives of policy he did not withdraw his protection openly and altogether; but they soon discovered proofs that his influence was working secretly against them, and was the real cause of much insolence, and even violence they experi-enced at this time at the hands of some of his tribes-men. For many months before his return, the natives had abstained from demanding arms and ammuni-tion, deterred by Mr. Marsden's threat of removing the missionaries; but no sooner had he come back, than the old trouble returned, and the desire to ob-tain the means of destruction became more intense than ever. The spirit of the man, indeed, seemed wholly changed. In their Report for 1822, grief and surprise are expressed by the Committee of the C.M.S., that "he should have carried back with him to New Zealand a mind exasperated against the Society." "That he did return in this temper," they go on to say, "after all the kindness shown to him, has been painfully felt by the settlers who remained in the Bay during his absence." Writing to the Society, on the 23rd August, 1821, Mr. Butler says, "Hongi is very inveterate against all religious topics." When we endeavour to trace this change to its origin, we are driven to certain painful inferences concerning the character and con-duct of his fellow-voyager to England and back, [28/29] Thomas Kendall. The evidence is very scanty--for this reason, that the Committee are evidently bent on drawing a veil over the discreditable proceed-ings of a once-trusted agent; it is impossible, not-withstanding, to resist the conclusion that Kendall, under a more than common profession of humility and sanctity--he describes himself in one of his letters home as "a sinful worm"--concealed a self-seeking and unprincipled character; that for his own ulterior purposes, whatever they may have been, he had set himself successfully to acquire a dominating influence over the mind of Hongi; and that he secretly used this influence to the detriment of the Society and his fellow-settlers. While in England, he so behaved himself as to blind the Society com-pletely to his true character; and so thoroughly did he succeed in winning their confidence and favour, that, on their recommendation, he was ordained suc-cessively deacon and priest in the course of his four months' sojourn in England. But their eyes were soon opened. There can be little doubt that the words, which immediately follow those above quoted from their Report of 1822, respecting the change that had come over Hongi, refer to Kendall:--" Into the circumstances which led to this "--that is, this change of temper on the part of Hongi--" the Com-mittee will not now enter; they have obtained a clue to them, which will lead, they fear, to some painful conclusions." After his return with Hongi to the Bay of Islands, which he reached in July, 1821, we can discover but very few traces of his proceedings; we find him, however, closely leagued with that [29/30] chief, and not ashamed to defend the conduct of those Europeans who were willing to supply the natives with arms and ammunition, and saying that he would not scruple to do so himself, without re-gard to the use they might make of them. We find also Mr. Butler complaining to the Society, that his influence was being undermined by Kendall; [Footnote: In one of his letters home, Mr. Butler, after recounting at length an interview he had had with Hongi and Kendall, says, "From these facts you may learn something of the dreadful prejudice of Hongi's mind. It is a sad thing; but who has instilled it into him? "--Report of C.M.S., 1822, Appendix xvi. p. 357] and then, without further explanation, we find in the Society's Report for 1823, the name of the Rev. Thomas Kendall quietly dropped from the list of the Society's agents.

But, whatever his demerits, it would be unjust to pass over in silence the services he rendered to the missionary cause, by advancing the knowledge of the Maori language, and thus paving the way for the great work of translation. We have previously mentioned his having written a prayer and an elementary cate-chism in Maori; he had also collected materials for a grammar and vocabulary. In the meantime, the attention of the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, Dr. Samuel Lee, had been attracted to the language, and at this time he was eagerly looking out for fresh light on the subject, and additional material for study and arrangement. When, there-fore, Kendall visited England with the two chiefs in 1820, the Society gladly seized the opportunity of combining the scientific attainments of the professor [30/31] with the practical knowledge of the missionary and his native companions, in the work of laying the foundation of the Maori as a written language, by settling its orthography, and reducing it to gram-matical rules. They made provision accordingly for the residence of all three at Cambridge for two months; and the result was the publication by the Society, in November, 1820, of a small book of sixty pages, entitled, "A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Lan-guage of New Zealand," with a preface by Professor Lee. Meagre and incomplete as this tract now appears to Maori scholars, it was important as a beginning.

The years 1821 and 1822 were critical ones for the mission. The natives seemed to have fallen back, instead of advancing, in civilisation. Taking their tone from Hongi, they treated the missionaries with contempt, and often shamefully insulted and mal-treated them, breaking down their fences, pilfering their goods, coming into their houses uninvited, taking food out of the pot and eating it before their faces, seeming to take delight in making them feel that they were completely at their mercy. When Hongi returned from one of his successful raids, bringing back troops of prisoners, they were com-pelled to witness the most horrible atrocities enacted before their eyes. Some of the lesser chiefs, amongst whom one named Rewa is deserving of honourable mention, actively befriended them, otherwise they could not have held their ground at all; but they cannot be said to have made any advance. The Rev. John Butler, the clerical head of the mission, [31/32] seems to have been unable to cope with the difficul-ties of his position, and to have lost heart; in one of his journals he expressed the opinion, that "it would be most advisable to give up the mission altogether;" at any rate, it is evident that he gained no hold upon the people. Moreover, after the return of Kendall in Holy Orders, the most unedifying spectacle was presented of the two clergymen of the mission, of whose efforts as peacemakers among their heathen neighbours there could never be more crying need, at variance with one another. These painful matters, as before, are wrapped in obscurity in the leaves of the Society's reports; faint glimmerings of them are all that are perceptible to the most careful inquirer; but, as regards Mr. Butler, if we may anticipate at this point the close of his missionary career in New Zealand, it must suffice to say that the Report of 1825, after mentioning the names of Butler and some others of the Society's agents, adds these few words, the curtness of which is most expressive:--"The connection of all these parties with the Society has been dissolved." [Footnote: It is evident, from a perusal of the records of the Society at this period, that they had begun to seriously distrust the prin-ciple of first introducing the arts of civilised life as preparatory to the evangelisation of the people. The tendency had certainly been to secularise the minds of some of their agents. In their Report for 1823, they say, that " the conviction is gathering strength among the labourers, that a direct and unwearied com-munication of the Gospel to the natives must henceforth, more than it has yet done, accompany and promote the efforts for their civilisation." In the Address to the Rev. H. Williams, on his appointment, the Committee are very urgent in impressing on him the necessity of subordinating everything to " the great and ultimate purpose of the mission," which is, " to bring the noble but benighted race of New Zealanders into the enjoyment of the light and freedom of the Gospel. They are the more earnest with you," they say, "on this point, because, in the constant attention which this mission will require, for years to come, to secular business, the temptation of the labourers has been, and will be, not to give a due proportion in their plans to religious education and instruction."] To add to the darkness of the [32/33] picture, it was judged necessary in the year 1821, to abandon the seminary at Paramatta, because it was found that the change of habits and climate often proved injurious to the health of the native inmates, and because also the results were not always satis-factory. And even one more backward step, as it seemed, was taken about the same time; the mis-sionary brig, Active, was sold on the score of expense, and recourse was again had to trading vessels for maintaining communication between Sydney and the Bay of Islands.

These were sad blows to a sanguine spirit like that of the noble founder of the New Zealand Mission. But he never lost heart, and received at this time much-needed encouragement from the newly-arrived Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, who entered warmly into his plans, and assured him of his countenance and support. But above all, under the gracious providence of God, the dawn of a new day was at hand for the mission; the choice of the Society lighted upon a missionary priest after Marsden's own heart, a man of like Christian enter-prise, like undaunted resolution, like indomitable [33/34] perseverance with himself. On the 6th August, 1822, the Rev. Henry Williams, who had been admitted two months before under the Colonial Service Act to deacon's orders, and, with the interval of only a fortnight, to the priesthood, received the Society's instructions on his appointment to the New Zealand Mission. After his ordination very disheartening in-telligence was received by the Society, of which the following note was made at the time: [Footnote: See "Life of Henry Williams," by Hugh Carleton, vol i. p. 18. (Upton & Co., Auckland, New Zealand, 1874.)]--"Very un-pleasant news from New Zealand. The visit of the chiefs to England has been productive of great evil. All the presents Hongi received were changed in New South Wales for muskets; he is supposed to have a thousand stand of arms. Mr. Kendall is implicated: those missionaries who steadily obey the instructions of the Society, and refuse to sell muskets, are despised by the natives, and two are thinking of returning." Upon the receipt of this intelligence the Society gave Mr. Williams the offer of another sphere of labour; but he declined to draw back, and on the 7th Sep-tember, embarked at Woolwich with his wife and three children on board the female convict ship Lord Sidmouth. It was no poor qualification for the work he was undertaking, that he had been a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and had seen much active service in the wars with France and the United States. In that school he had learnt not only intrepidity, readi-ness of resource, and good seamanship, which were of the utmost service in his missionary work, but [34/35] invaluable habits also of order, discipline, and inflexible devotion to duty, of which, while he expected them from others, he displayed an unvarying example him-self. It must be added that any record of the New Zealand Mission would be very incomplete, which should omit to make mention of the admirable character of Mrs. Williams, not only as wife and mother, but also as a most important fellow-helper in the work of the mission. Devout, truthful, patient, brave, full of ready sympathy, of a remarkable elasticity of spirit, and, withal, cultured and intellectual, she came very near to realising the ideal of a missionary priest's wife.

Mr. Williams reached Sydney on the 27th February, 1823. There he remained for some months, assisting Mr. Marsden in his duties as Government chaplain, studying the Maori language the while with the help of two young New Zealanders, who were residing at Paramatta. On the 21st July, Mr. Marsden, with the readily granted permission of Governor Brisbane, em-barked with Mr. and Mrs. Williams on board a fine ship named the Brampton, and arrived at the Bay of Islands on the 3rd August. Two Wesleyan ministers, Messrs. Turner and Hobbs, sailed with them, the Wesleyan mission having been recently set on foot. It had been Mr. Marsden's intention indeed to have settled Mr. Williams at Whangaroa, but, on their arrival, they found that the ground had been pre-occupied by the Rev. Samuel Leigh, the head of that mission. It was accordingly determined to form the new station at Paihia, on the south side of the Bay of Islands, and a few miles further up the harbour than Keri-Keri. The resident chief and matua (father [35/36] or patron) of the new station was one Te Koki. Having seen the party fairly settled, Mr. Marsden prepared to return to Sydney from this his fourth visit, in the ship in which he came. The Brampton weighed anchor on the 7th September, but, in trying to work out of harbour in the teeth of a strong head-wind, she was wrecked on a reef in Kororareka Bay, which has since borne her name. Mr. Marsden, with Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, who were returning with him to Sydney, landed on an island called Moturoa (Long Island). And now the story of the Boyd massacre of thirteen years before was happily reversed. The natives, who had the ship and passengers completely at their mercy, not only showed sympathy and brought food, but allowed the captain to land all his stores and leave them in safety on the island. The reputation of the people among Europeans was thus in a measure redeemed, and it was shown that, notwithstanding much to the contrary, good influences had been at work among them. This opinion is expressed in strong terms by Sir Thomas Brisbane, in a letter to the Secretary of the C.M.S., and he goes on to congratulate the Society on the success of their efforts. Mr. Marsden was detained in New Zealand for more than two months, and did not reach Sydney until the beginning of December.

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