Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.

Chapter III.

THE RECEPTION. (1815-1822).

He that soweth discord among brethren.

THE position of the missionaries when left alone at Rangihoua was not an easy one. Ruatara was dead, and there was no one to fill his place. His successor at Rangihoua, though friendly and genial, seems to have had but little influence. Korokoro cared for nothing but war. The real ruler was Ruatara's uncle, Hongi, who lived some miles away; and Hongi's character had yet to disclose itself. His behaviour was quiet and gentlemanly; he assured the missionaries of his protection, and he kept his word.

This protection, however, was subject to limitations. The settlers were naturally anxious to grow corn and vegetables, but the cold clay of Te Puna was not a favourable soil. [The missionaries generally used the terms Te Puna and Rangihoua indiscriminately.] At the very beginning some of them had pleaded for a more fertile spot, but their sagacious leader had set his veto on the proposal. Not many months, however, after Marsden's departure, Kendall and Hall crossed the Bay to a sunny spot at the mouth of the Waitangi River. Here they bought 50 acres of fertile land, and thither Hall transferred his family. He soon saw around him a prolific growth of maize and vegetables, but just as he was congratulating himself on the wisdom of the move, a scene occurred which quickly altered his views. He was felled to the ground by a savage visitor who brandished an axe over his head, and he struggled to his feet only to behold his wife's countenance suffused with blood from a smashing blow dealt her by another ruffian. His furniture and tools were carried off, and the poor missionary was glad to return to his colleagues, and to share the protection of the tapu which Ruatara had placed upon their settlement. Barren as Te Puna might be, it was a safe refuge, and so long as the missionaries stayed there they suffered nothing worse from the natives than a little pilfering and an occasional threat.

Their real troubles arose within their own circle. The settlement (including children) consisted of twenty-five people, and it was organised by Marsden on what may be called a communistic basis. His original plan had been for each settler to be allowed to trade with the Maoris on his own account, and for this purpose he had given them a stock of goods before leaving Sydney. This concession was intended to compensate those who, like King and Hall, had given up large incomes on leaving New South Wales. But a very short experience convinced Marsden that such traffic was open to grave objections. With characteristic promptitude he remodelled his scheme. Calling the settlers together, he told them that he could allow no private trade whatever. All traffic with the natives was to be carried on by the whole community, and the profits were to go towards defraying the expenses of the mission. Rations of food and other necessaries would be served out to the mission families, and each settler would receive a small percentage on whatever profit might accrue from the trading voyages of the brig.

These terms were not accepted without protest, but such was the weight of Marsden's authority, that they were at length adopted by all. The scheme is interesting as foreshadowing the communism of Selwyn, and as being the earliest example of socialism in white New Zealand. But all such experiments need the constant presence of the inspiring mind, and this is just what the Te Puna community lacked. Marsden did not return for more than four years, and in the meantime the settlers were left with no head whatever. Kendall was the cleverest of the group, and his ambitious spirit chafed at the restrictions imposed by his distant superior. He bore a commission of the Peace from the Governor of New South Wales, but his magisterial powers were mostly exercised on runaway sailors. In the mission his vote counted for no more than the vote of King or of Hall.

For a time, indeed, the experiment promised well. Hall spoke in later years of the "zeal, warmth, and sanguinity" with which they began their work. Kendall was successful with the school, in which a son of the noble Te Pahi acted as an assistant. One or two new settlers arrived from Australia, and glowing reports reached the Committee in London.

But evil was at work. As early as 1816, Kendall was sending to Marsden grave accusations against his colleagues. His letters were plausible and carried weight. Quarrels arose between him and Hall, who was so wearied with the "difficulties, discouragements, and insults" of his life that he wished to retire from his post. The rules of the community were not kept; the forbidden trade in firearms was not altogether avoided; the early fervour cooled, and little mission work was done.

Marsden grieved over this sad declension, yet could not at once apply a remedy. But in the early months of 1819 he had staying at his parsonage a singularly devoted Methodist preacher whose health had broken down. The chaplain suggested to his guest that he should try the effect of a voyage to New Zealand, and should investigate the state of the Mission there. Like a mediaeval bishop, Marsden called in the assistance of a preaching order to infuse new life into his failing "seculars." The boldness of the plan was justified by the result. Mr. Leigh tactfully mediated between the separated brethren; by prayer and exhortation he rekindled their flagging zeal; and, Methodist-like, he drew up a "plan" for their future operations. Soon after his departure King and Kendall went on a missionary tour to Hokianga on the western coast; Hall boated along the eastern coast, and preached as far as Whangaruru.

On the reception of Leigh's report, Marsden wrote a hopeful letter to London. "The place," he said, "will now be changed, and I trust we shall be able to lay down such rules and keep those who are employed in the work to their proper duty, so as to prevent the existence of any great differences among them." But he himself must initiate the changes, and by August of that same year (1819) he was again at the Bay of Islands. The meeting between himself and his catechists was marked by satisfaction on both sides. Kendall and King could report hopefully of their recent reception on the Hokianga River, which they were the first white men to see; Hall could relate how he had found and forgiven the people who had assaulted him at Waitangi, and how prosperous had been his tour until he reached a pa where the demand for iron was so great that the inhabitants stole the rudder-hangings of his boat, and left the poor missionary to find his way back as best he might in stormy weather to the shelter of Rangihoua. Marsden, on his part, could introduce a party of new helpers whom he had brought from Sydney--the Rev. John Butler and his wife, Francis Hall, a schoolmaster, and James Kemp, a smith.

New plans were at once formed for an extension of the work. An offer from Hongi of a site opposite to his own pa was accepted, and Marsden bought for four dozen axes a large piece of ground on the Keri-keri River, at the extreme north-west of the Bay. Here, in a sheltered vale and amid the sound of waterfalls, the new mission station was established. To it the fresh workers were assigned, Butler taking the chief place. Marsden himself pushed on across the island to the mouth of the Hokianga, and on his return was surprised to see much of the new ground broken up, maize growing upon it, and vines in leaf. Agriculture formed indeed an important feature in Marsden's plans for the mission. Seeing Hongi's blind wife working hard in a potato field, he was much affected by the miserable condition of many of the Maoris: "Their temporal situation must be improved by agriculture and the simple arts, in order to lay a permanent foundation for the introduction of Christianity." No spiritual results were as yet visible, but the chiefs attended Marsden's services and "behaved with great decorum." On the evening of September 5 he administered the Holy Communion to the settlers at Rangihoua. The service was held in a "shed," but "the solemnity of the occasion did not fail to excite in our breasts sensations and feelings corresponding with the peculiar situation in which we were. We had retrospect to the period when this holy ordinance was first instituted in Jerusalem in the presence of our Lord's disciples, and adverted to the peculiar circumstances under which it was now administered at the very ends of the earth."

In spite of the more promising appearances, however, Marsden seems to have realised that the missionaries must never be left so long again unvisited. In little more than three months he was again in New Zealand. There had been no difficulty about leave of absence this time, for the Admiralty needed kauri timber, and was glad to avail itself of his influence with the Maoris, and his knowledge of their ways. Marsden made the most of this unlocked for opportunity, and stayed nine months in the country. Of all his vwits this was the longest and the most full of arduous effort, but its results were almost nullified by subsequent events. For it happened that on his arrival at e "una he found another enterprise in contemplation one which would leave its mark upon history, and 2 e vear memorable with an evil memory in annals of New Zealand. This was the journey of

Kendal and Hongi to England. To understand the course of events and to appreciate its fell significance, it is necessary to keep in mind both what the Englishman was doing in New Zealand, and what the New Zealander was doing in England, during those same months of the year 1820. They will meet again next year in the parsonage of Parramatta, and then the results of their separate courses will begin to show themselves.

Hongi, though less definitely favourable to the mission than had been his nephew Ruatara, had hitherto always stood its friend. On Marsden's last visit he had indeed disbanded a large army at his request, and had seemed ready to relinquish his design of obtaining utu for the blood of several Ngapuhi chiefs who had been lately slain in battle. But the obtaining of utu was almost the main object of the heathen Maori.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood and death for death--this was his creed. If the blood of the murderer could not be had, then someone else's blood must be shed--someone, too, of equal rank and dignity. Hongi could not bring himself to accept the new message of peace, and his dissatisfaction was, it would seem, fanned by Kendall, who had ambitions of his own to serve. The other settlers, fearing to lose the protection of Hongi's restraining hand, did their utmost to dissuade him from taking the journey, but in vain. "I shall die," said the chief, "if I do not go."

Four days accordingly after Marsden's arrival the two set sail, having with them Waikato, another chief of the same tribe. The story of their visit to England is to a large extent familiar. They were received with great interest at the Missionary House, but the authorities treated Hongi as a heathen soul to be saved, and this was not what he wanted. Together they went to Cambridge, and here Kendall found scope for his abilities in furnishing to Professor Lee the materials for a scientific orthography of the Maori language. He stayed on at Cambridge to prepare for Holy Orders, which the Society had agreed that he should receive. The chiefs meanwhile were entertained at the houses of nobles and prelates in different parts of the country, and at length were presented to King George IV. "How do you do, Mr. King George?" said the gentlemanly Hongi. "How do you do, Mr. King Hongi?" replied that easy monarch. This was the kind of reception that the Maori appreciated, and with the craft of his race he immediately seized his advantage. "You have ships and guns in plenty," said he to the King; "have you said that the New Zealanders are not to have any?" "Certainly not," replied His Majesty, and gave him a suit of armour from the Tower. Hongi's object was now attained. In spite of the missionaries he would have his guns, and he would be a king.

This determination was not shaken by the Christianity which came under the notice of the chiefs. At Norwich Cathedral they were given a seat in the episcopal pew close to the altar, on the occasion of Kendall's ordination. Hongi was chiefly impressed by the bishop's wig, which he thought must be emblematic of wisdom. His conclusion was that the Church was a very venerable institution and a necessary part of the English State, but it did not seem to follow very consistently the doctrines which he had heard proclaimed by the missionaries. Its official representatives seemed to be on good terms with the world: why should he be better than they? Like the king and great people of England he would uphold the Church and--go his own way.

Marsden meanwhile had been working hard in the opposite direction. On landing in February, 1820, he found that some of the missionaries had been using rauskets and powder as articles of barter. It was very ara to avoid doing so, for the Maoris were no longer satisfied with hoes and axes. Guns were becoming necessary to self-defence in New Zealand, and guns they would have. Marsden took a firm stand and informed the chiefs that if there were any more trading for firearms the mission would be withdrawn. The Maoris were far too keenly alive to the advantages of European settlement not to be alarmed at this threat. They agreed to deal with the settlers by means of peaceful articles of commerce.

Marsden now began a wonderful series of journeys. His obligation to the timber-cutters led him far up the Thames Valley, but he soon went on by himself and reached Tauranga, where he found memories of Captain Cook. Returning to his ship in the Thames estuary, he made more than one expedition to Kai-para and the more northern parts of the island, including places where no white man had hitherto been seen.2 In these journeys the Mokoia pa, which stood on the site of the present village of Panmure, near Auckland, became a kind of pivot of his operations. Its chief, Hinaki, was particularly friendly, and in

2Marsden's routes of travel during this time have been thoroughly traced and elucidated by Dr. Hocken. In a biography or in a work on the exploration of New Zealand a full account of these interesting journeys should be given. But, for reasons which will presently appear, they have hardly any importance for the history of the Church. One Rembrandtesque passage may be quoted in which Marsden narrates his visit to the pa of Pataua, near Whangarei. This pa was built high above the sea, upon rocks which had "the appearance of an old abbey in ruins. ... I was conducted up the narrow pass [writes Marsden] which I could not ascend without assistance, the path was so steep and narrow. When I had reached the top, I found a number of men, women, and children sitting round their fires roasting snappers, crawfish, and fern root. It was now quite dark. The roaring of the sea at the foot of the pa, as the waves rolled into the deep caverns beneath the high precipice upon which we stood, whose top and sides were covered with huts, and the groups of natives conversing round their fires, all tended to excite new and strange ideas for reflection."

him Marsden hoped to find a second Ruatara, and in his village a basis for mission work further south. In fact, all the people of this district seemed more accessible to the appeal of religion than were those of the Bay of Islands. From June to November the devoted missionary passed up and down the waterways which encompass the present city of Auckland, as well as overland to Hokianga and Whangaroa, preaching in the numerous villages the simple truth of the one living and true GOD. After one of his journeys he writes: "I had now been twenty days from the ship, during which time I had slept in my clothes, generally in the open air or in a boat or canoe. A great part of the time the weather had been very wet and stormy. I had crossed many swamps, creeks, and rivers, from the Bay of Plenty on the eastern side to Kaipara on the western coast; yet, through the kind providence of God, I met with no accident or unpleasant circumstances, but, on the contrary, had been highly gratified, and returned to the ship in perfect health." [I have ventured to substitute this term for the "Mercury Bay" of the original. It is clear that Marsden thought himself much further north than he really was. Dr. Hocken proposes to read "Towranga," which, of course, means the same as my own emendation.]

Marsden's labours were indeed so great and so many-sided as to compel the most sincere admiration. At one time he seems wholly given up to trade, and on his first visit the Maoris were astonished to see him busy with the aristocratic Nicholas in salting barrels of fish for export to Sydney. At another time he is the adventurous explorer bearing cheerfully the extremes of hot and cold, of wet and dry. Yet again he is the sagacious counsellor and the resolute leader of men; and with it all he is the warm-hearted Christian who can stay in the midst of his labours to indite a letter to England, full of spiritual force and sweetness. Wherever he passes he finds his God a very present help; he lies down at night in the wet grass with feelings of adoring wonder at the mysteries of redemption, and before his closing eyes there rises the vision of the Cross of Jesus.

At his departure in December, Marsden left behind him a peaceful community and an apparently prosperous mission. Butler had during the year put into the ground the first plough ever used in New Zealand. The Maoris were quiet, and the missionaries went to their beds at night without any sense of insecurity. Four of the newly visited chiefs from the Thames district followed Marsden at a short interval to Australia, and stayed with him in his parsonage at Paramatta. Among these was Hinaki of Mokoia, who wished to continue his journey to England. They were still in the house when, in the following May, Hongi and Kendall arrived on their return journey. It was the month of the death of the great Napoleon at St. Helena, and it would almost seem as though a portion of his spirit had passed into the Maori chief on his passage through the Atlantic. At any rate Hongi began now to disclose his purposes: "Do not go to England," he said to Hinaki at Marsden's table; "you will surely be ill there. Better go home and see to your defences. I shall come to visit you before long." All the presents which the great people in England had showered upon him (excepting, of course, the suit of armour) he now bartered for muskets and powder. A legend of his race told how when the Maoris came from Hawaiki they were followed by an invisible canoe in which sat the figure of Death. With more reason might that grim form have been supposed to lurk now in the hold of the ship in which Hongi and Hinaki sailed together to their native land.

They arrived there in the July of 1821, and the missionaries of Kerikeri soon realised that they had a different Hongi to deal with. For a time he held aloof from them, and when he did speak he showed great reserve. Some allowance must of course be made for the inevitable disillusionment of such a return. After the palaces of the bishops by whom he had been entertained in England, the mission stations must have appeared even startlingly humble. But the real grievance was the cessation of the trade in firearms. The King had approved of this trade: why should the missionaries object? Kendall in his new clerical attire seemed quite willing to play the part of court-chaplain to the would-be king. "I would as soon," he said, "trade with a musket as with a dollar."

The effects of the change were seen immediately. The Maoris grew insolent, broke down the settlers' fences, and stole whatever they could lay their hands on. This was, however, as nothing to that which followed. Hongi and Hinaki had become reconciled on the ship, but a new act of aggression soon called for reprisals, and at the head of an immense naval armament Hongi set out for the waters of the Waitemata. Clad in his helmet and coat of mail, he declaimed his wrongs before his enemy's stockade at Mokoia, and was only saved by his armour from sudden death by a treacherous bullet. Hinaki would grant no satisfaction; a general assault took place, and after a desperate contest the pa was taken. Hongi swallowed his rival's eyes, and drank the blood that welled from his throat. The taste of blood seemed to rouse the tiger in his nature, and he proceeded to sweep the country with fire and sword. "Powerful tribes on both sides of the Thames were cut off, and for years the whole country was deserted." The districts which Marsden had visited so hopefully the year before were all reduced to desolation. The people whom he had found so receptive of divine truth were now no longer to be seen: they were either killed, carried into slavery, or driven to the mountains of the interior.

The missionaries were not exposed to this awful carnage, but their position can only be described as terrible. The Mokoia expedition brought back (it was said) no less than 2,000 prisoners. Several of these were slaughtered in cold blood at the very doors of the station at Kerikeri. The Maoris were inflamed with the lust for blood; they gloated over the sufferings of their enemies. They surrounded the mission premises with poles, upon which were stuck the heads of the slain, while the remains of the cooked flesh lay rotting on the ground. The unhappy missionaries could do but little. They rescued a few children from among the prisoners, but for the rest they had to bear as best they might the intolerable humiliation of feeling that they owed their very safety to the protection of Hongi. The Kerikeri settlers were reduced to the further degradation of making cartridge boxes for the troops, while their forge was used for the manufacture of ammunition. How much is contained in these few lines from the schoolmaster's diary: "The natives have been casting balls all day in Mr. Kemp's shop. They come in when they please, and do what they please, and take away what they please, and it is vain to resist them."

Marsden and the Home authorities were powerless to help. Of course Kendall was dismissed. So was another of the settlers. Others left of their own accord, and the Society at Home thought of abandoning the mission. The one bright spot was Rangihoua or Te Puna, where the two original catechists, King and Hall, kept quietly on, thus showing the value of Marsden's training during the years of waiting in Sydney. Their settlement was gradually improving, and at least they kept the flag flying. As for Marsden himself, there was even one more drop of bitterness to be added to his cup. Ever since the beginning of the mission he had kept up a seminary for New Zealanders at Parramatta. The chiefs were eager to send their sons to be educated under his care, and in the beginning of 1820 he had no less than twenty-five in residence. But in the following year a time of mortality set in; several of the young men died, and for a time the seminary was closed.

Marsden had inaugurated the mission in 1814 with the message of peace and goodwill to men. Now, as he thought of the charred villages and whitening bones which marked the face of the country after seven years of Gospel preaching, he must surely have felt bound to take other words as the burden of his cry: "I came not to send peace, but a sword."

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