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A Sketch of the Life of the Right Reverend George Augustus Selwyn, Late Bishop of Lichfield, and Formerly Bishop and Metropolitan of New Zealand.

By Mrs. G. Herbert Curteis

London: J. Parker and Co., and Newcastle: G. Hickson, 1878.

Chapter II.--Consecration to the Bishopric of New Zealand: The Voyage: Work in the Colony. 1841-1848.

The Church Missionary Society had long been desirous of Episcopal oversight for their successful and extensive Missions in New Zealand, which formed part of the Australasian diocese under Bishop Broughton's jurisdiction. This [7/8] indefatigable prelate had indeed visited the islands in 1838, had held an Ordination and two Confirmations there, and had consecrated certain burial grounds. But, beyond this, New Zealand--although almost entirely Christianized by the labours of Samuel Marsden (1815) and his successors--knew nothing of episcopal order and supervision. But in 1841, her Majesty's Government made New Zealand a separate colony, and in deference to the urgent representations of the Society, and of the newly founded "Colonial Bishoprics Council," they went, so far as to promise £600 a year for the maintenance of a Bishop in the new Colony, an equal sum having already been guaranteed by the Church Missionary Society. The only remaining difficulty was to find a suitable man for the post.

It so happened that at this time the Windsor curate, in anticipation of his pupils leaving Eton, was disengaging himself from his parish work and had offered to take an unpaid curacy under the aged vicar of a town in Shropshire near the Powis estates. But a higher call suddenly reached him. It was not indeed the call which he may possibly have anticipated--a call to the Bishopric of Malta (or Gibraltar). The summons was not to re-animate the corrupt communions of the Levant or to "re-kindle the fires of the early African Churches." It was a summons to carry the blessings of Church order and Episcopal supervision among the hardy colonists and the recently converted natives of "the Britain of the South." This arduous post, for which George Augustus .Selwyn was of all men perhaps the best fitted, was now offered to him and at once enthusiastically accepted. He was consecrated on October 17, 1841; and at once prepared for his voyage.

To go out as a Colonial Bishop in those days was a much more difficult undertaking than it is now. There were [8/9] many hardships to be undergone, absence of civilization, great difficulty of communication, very little companionship, and sometimes even deficiency of food. All honour to the noble spirit which despised the comforts and refinements of life, for the sake of the Master in whose steps he so closely followed!

Some extracts will be interesting from Archbishop Howley's farewell letter to Bishop Selwyn, dated Nov. 30, 1841, and from the answer sent by the Bishop before he sailed from England.

"My dear Lord,--I am requested by such of the Bishops as attended the last meeting of the Committee appointed to manage the fund for the endowment of Colonial Bishoprics, to address a valedictory letter to your lordship expressive of their personal respect, and of the deep interest they take in your high and holy Mission. The Mission over which you preside is founded on the recognition of a principle which unfortunately has not always been acted upon in the first establishment of our colonies. You will have the great satisfaction of laying the foundations of civilized society in New Zealand on the basis of an Apostolical Church.* * Your mission acquires an importance exceeding all calculation when your See is regarded as the central point of a system extending its influence in all directions; as a fountain diffusing the streams of salvation over the islands and coasts of the Pacific; as the seminary to which nations which have been hitherto blinded by debasing superstitions will look for light. * * The consciousness of going forth in the name of the Lord, as the messenger of mercy and peace, will reconcile you to the sacrifices which you have made in obedience to this call from on high. * * The influence of Mrs. Selwyn's kindness and piety will, I am [9/10] persuaded, not only promote the comfort and happiness of her domestic circle, but will be extensively useful in bettering the condition and improving the morals of all who cone within its sphere. I most heartily commend your lordship, your family, and all the Clergymen in your train, to the protection of the Lord and the guidance of His Holy Spirit. Your affectionate brother and friend, W. CANTUAR."

To this the Bishop replied as follows:--''Richmond, Dec. 8, 1841. My dear Lord Archbishop,--The prevalence of contrary winds gives me an opportunity of acknowledging your Grace's most feeling and Christian letter from this place. When I say that every member of my own and of my wife's family has acquiesced joyfully and thankfully in the call which will separate me from them, perhaps for life, I cannot offer a better proof of the blessing which has attended this act of the Church, in procuring for it the willing obedience of so many of its members. I may add to these feelings of public runty, that your Grace's farewell letter has diffused joy and comfort on all our relations by the power of private sympathy mingling with the highest and holiest thoughts of Christian obligation. That the Church of England at home may be blessed with the spirit of unity and peace, and in the strength of that. spirit may go forth into all the world, as it has now reached its most distant point, is the earnest prayer of one, who--more than all others--will require the support which is afforded by the thought that there is no division in the Body of Christ; but that in Him we all are joined together in one spirit and in one faith. * * Sir J. Richardson would have been the first to rejoice in resigning his daughter to the service of his Redeemer and at the bidding of His Church. I thank God that his spirit lives also in her. With our united and affectionate remembrances [10/11] to Mrs. Howley, and in grateful recollection of all your kindness, I remain, with great respect. your Grace's dutiful and affectionate son, G. A. NEW ZEALAND."

This letter at once suggests a leading feature in Bishop Selwyn's character, evident to all who knew him throughout his life,--how he lived in communion with God. His thoughts ever naturally and simply turned to Him, every action being, as it were, permeated with love to God and with the one desire to do all to His honour and glory.

His farewell-sermon at Windsor was listened to with deep emotion as he talked of "going away to plant a Church and then to die neglected and unknown." One young hearer, an Eton boy, was so forcibly struck by this sermon, that from that clay forth he never gave up the idea of following the Bishop when he should be old enough to do so. This boy was John Coleridge Patteson, the future Bishop and Martyr of Melanesia.

In December, 1841, the Bishop of New Zealand sailed from Plymouth with a large party in the ship Tomatin. [For details of this voyage see Dean Howson's Memoir of Rev. T. B. Whytehead, one of the party.] He engaged a young native who had been brought to England to be trained at Battersea, and from him during the voyage learnt the Maori language so successfully, that the first Sunday after he arrived he preached to the natives in their own tongue, so that he must have seemed to them half-inspired. On the journey out, he held classes daily for the benefit of those who were with him in Maori, Greek, and Hebrew; and for himself, he learnt the art of navigation, which afterwards enabled him to he his own sailing-master in the vessels in which he cruised about on almost unknown seas. After a [11/12] voyage of four months he and his party landed at Sydney, where public thanksgivings were offered up in S. James's Church for their safe arrival. A delay occurred at Sydney, owing to an accident which had happened to the Tomatin. After some weeks, therefore, during which the Bishop took counsel with Dr. Broughton, Bishop of Australia, about the new diocese, he started with his chaplain (Mr. Cotton) in a small brig for Auckland, leaving Mrs. Selwyn and their infant son to follow with the rest of the party. He landed at Auckland May 30th, 1842. Many years afterwards, he thus described how he found things in New Zealand. "In 1814 the work of the Church Missionary Society began with the labours of Samuel Marsden, a Chaplain at Sydney, who trained and sent missionaries to preach the Gospel in New Zealand. He was followed by men sent out from England whose names will be ever remembered in the missionary annals of the Church. * * * I went a quarter of a century later and found the greater part of the people had made profession of Christianity." Civilization and Christianity had indeed advanced rapidly in New Zealand since the early days of Christian Missions, when the natives were ferocious cannibals. In 1839, throughout the Northern Island there was scarcely a village which had not come under the sway of a native catechist, whose duties comprehended those of a village schoolmaster and reader of morning and evening prayer. The desire for instruction seemed universal; and it is related how some English sawyers requested their master to teach them reading and writing, as they were ashamed of being inferior to the surrounding natives in point of education. Some of the young chiefs were even eager to diffuse a knowledge of Christianity throughout the country, and so to establish [12/13] peaceful relations between the hostile tribes. Mr. Jameson mentions having met with a young chief of grand proportions, six feet in height and endowed with a gift of eloquence by no means uncommon amongst the New Zealanders, who had travelled from one end of the Northern Island to the other, with ten of his tribe, for the sole purpose of imparting the knowledge of Christianity to the people near Cook's Straits. Every evening before retiring to rest this young chief assembled the natives, read a chapter of the New Testament in their own language, and concluded with a short extempore address. Another young man is mentioned, the son of one of the principal chiefs, who had rescued a boy belonging to the ship Tory from drowning; and he is spoken of as very intelligent, while "his manners at table would not have disgraced a pupil of Lord Chesterfield!" [Jameson's New Zealand, &c., (1842,) pp. 308, 199.]

In less than two months from the time he landed, the Bishop had arranged things satisfactorily at Auckland, and felt himself free to start for Wellington and Nelson in the Government brig Victoria. He carried with him a Church-tent presented by W. Cotton, Esq., and on landing at Nelson he at once pitched this "canvas cathedral" and held daily service for the natives. Having spent a fortnight at Nelson he went on to Wellington, where his visit was saddened by the death of W. Evans, one of his fellow-workers, who died. of fever in the Bishop's arms. From Wellington he started on his overland journey and began at once to visit all the Mission Stations, separated from one another by hundreds of miles of roadless country, over which he could travel only on foot. He thus solved in the simplest way Governor Hobson's question, 'What is the use of a Bishop, in a country where there are no roads for [13/14] his lordship's carriage to drive on?' He appointed four Archdeacons, and in one of his charges he warns them "not to consider themselves 'dignitaries' of the Church: for, as the title of 'Bishop' was a name not of honour but of work, so the title of 'Archdeacon' was no peacock's feather to distinguish one clergyman above another, but a pledge of combined helpfulness and work."

The Bishop's letters at this time are full of enthusiastic admiration for the beauty of the country, the grandeur of the scenery, and the unequalled climate under which he could endure exposure by night or by day without fear of evil consequences. The only requisites of a New Zealand camp, he says, are "fern, firewood, and water." Throughout the remaining months of the year 1842 he visited every settlement: and before he returned to Auckland in January 1843, he had made acquaintance with every clergyman and catechist throughout the Diocese. The Chief Justice, Sir William Martin, accompanied the Bishop throughout a great part of this first visitation; and they were warmly welcomed and hospitably entertained everywhere at the settlers' houses. In his diary he says, "I was lodged in the house of Mr. Cooke, a gentleman who most kindly undertook to place his whole establishment at the service of the Chief Justice and myself; and on going out into his garden in the morning, the view burst upon me of the whole mountain (Mt. Egmont), running up in a white cone above the clouds which were still clinging to it midway. At the foot of the grounds ran one of those beautifully clear and rapid streams which abound throughout Taranaki; and all around the fresh foliage of a New Zealand spring, tipping all the evergreens with a bright and sparkling verdure, formed a base on which the white peak of the mountain [14/15] reposed. My favourite verse canoe into my mind--'The lot is fallen to ore in a fair ground, yea, I have a goodly heritage.'" In the same enthusiastic way he describes a service held out of doors for the benefit of the natives. "Sunday, Nov. 13th, 1842. Conducted native services for my party of thirty natives,--a most happy Sunday. Our camp on a lovely little plain, bounded on all sides with wood, except on one, where a view opened on a range of distant hills. Below us in a deep valley flowed the infant Wanawatu, in a very winding channel, with precipitous wooded banks feathering down to the stream. The day was the perfection of New Zealand weather, which is the perfection of all climates--hot, but rarely sultry; bright, but not glaring, from the vivid green with which the earth is generally clothed. If you could have seen the peacefulness of our Lord's-day camp, and the repose of the whole face of heaven and earth, you would have been relieved from many of those fears which seen sometimes to creep into your mind when you think of my journeys in this country."

The Bishop returned to Auckland early in January; and the following entry in his diary will show what sort of condition he was in at the end of his six months' journey by land and by sea. "Tuesday, Jan. 3: My last pair of thick shoes being worn out, and my feet much blistered with walking the day before on the stumps, which I was obliged to tie to my insteps with pieces of native flax, I borrowed a horse from the native teacher, and started at 4 a.m. to go twelve miles to Mr. Hamlin's Mission Station, where I arrived at 7 a.m. After breakfast I sailed in his boat ten miles across Manukau harbour. A beautiful run of two hours brought us to Onehunga by noon. I landed there with my faithful Maori, Rota (Lot), [15/16] who had steadily accompanied me from Kapiti carrying my bag with gown and cassock, the only remaining articles in my possession of the least value. The suit which I wore was kept sufficiently decent, by much care, to enable me to enter Auckland by daylight; and my last remaining pair of shoes (thin ones) were strong enough for the light and sandy walk of six miles from Manukau to Auckland. At 2 p.m. I reached the Judge's house, by a path avoiding the town, and passing over land which I have bought for the site of the Cathedral; a spot which I hope may hereafter be traversed by the feet of many Bishops, better shod and far less ragged than myself."

The Bishop having by this visitation gained a complete knowledge of the general condition of his diocese, proceeded now to organize the machinery by which he meant to work it. He at first established his head quarters at the Waimate, 140 miles from Auckland. near the Bay of Islands, where he built a temporary college for the training of candidates for holy orders, catechists, and schoolmasters, together with elementary schools for the children of natives and of British settlers. St. John's College opened with seven students "duly arrayed in caps and gowns," of whom four were ordained during the year and sent to different posts in the country. Here too was the Bishop's own residence when he was not travelling about: and he was thus enabled to gain a personal and intimate knowledge both of the candidates for ordination, and of the young people in the schools. After two years, however, it was thought expedient by the Bishop to remove all these Institutions to the neighbourhood of Auckland, to which he also transferred his own residence. Here were built the Bishop's house, schoolrooms, a library, kitchen and dining [16/17] hall, a hospital, a chapel, a printing house, a day school (kept by Mrs. Selwyn), and a native industrial school in which he gathered New Zealand lads from all parts of the diocese. From this College went forth a goodly band every Sunday to serve the affiliated chapels, seven in number, within a radius of five miles, after the example of the early Cathedrals in the days of their primitive zeal and efficiency. That the College was considered by the Bishop as the most important part of his diocesan machinery is evident from his letters: he constantly speaks of it as "the key and pivot" of all his operations. He saw indeed in the College the only chance of keeping up a supply of clergy, when his hopes of receiving candidates from England grew less and less; and as the sons of farmers were trained there under the Bishop's eye in all things likely to be needed by them in ordinary life, they made good servants of the Church as laymen, even if they displayed no special qualifications for the Ministry.

There were however troublous times in store for the Bishop and for all who took interest in keeping up friendly relations between the colonists and the natives. And one of these causes of trouble, the land difficulty, was much increased by the Church Missionary Society's Agents having purchased nearly 100,000 acres--a much larger share than the law allowed settlers to possess.

There were also wars between the tribes; and in 1844 the Kororareka insurrection, headed by John Held, came to a head. The Bishop, hearing that troops had been sent to the scene of action, went after them in his own small coasting vessel. But the British flag-staff was cut down by the natives, and Held danced a war-dance before the Bishop's face.

[18] Another chief, Te Heu-heu, was a source of great trouble. On one occasion however, when H.M.S. Hazard was blown out to sea, and the colonists were left quite undefended, the Bishop and a Government Official went boldly out to the natives; and the old chief met them in a friendly manner, saying "you have acted like gentlemen in coming," and ordered his men to do honour to the Pakehas. So, to the Bishop's great joy, all chance of bloodshed was averted and peace was restored for a time.

In 1844 the Bishop's methodical preparation for the self-government of the New Zealand Church resulted in the first Synod of the Diocese, the first experiment of the kind made in our communion since Convocation was silenced in England. There were present the Bishop, three Archdeacons, four Priests, and two Deacons: and questions of church discipline and church extension were discussed. But this meeting was said to be illegal by English authorities; and in 1847 a second Synod was held, when the Bishop read a correspondence between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Gladstone, proposing a church-constitution in which Bishops, Clergy, and Laity should be represented. The six Bishops of Australasia met at Sydney in 1850, and likewise recommended a Church constitution in which Laity should be united with the Clergy. Two years later the Laity of New Zealand, headed by the Governor, petitioned to be allowed to take part in church legislation; and at length the first general Synod of New Zealand was held in 1857, at which five Bishops and a large number of Clergy and Laity were present. [Among other Financial arrangements, the Bishop's treatment of his Salary was so characteristic, as to deserve a separate notice. The sum, paid in two moieties by the Government at home, and Church Missionary Society, was £1,200. This sum was carried by the Bishop to the diocesan accounts, as if received by the diocese, and appeared in the yearly printed balance sheet as the first item of diocesan income. On the payment side, the diocese appeared as paying to the Bishop £500, thus leaving a balance of £700 for general diocesan purposes. This arrangement went on till 1852, when the Imperial Government, having transferred to the newly-created parliament of the Colony all colonial charges, ceased to pay its moiety of £800,--and the parliament refused to accept the charge. The salary of £600, as now reduced, (the Church Missionary Society most honourably continuing to pay it till 1588)was carried to the diocesan account as before until 1869, when, upon the Conseeration of Bishop Williams to the nonendowed diocese of Waiapu, Bishop Selwyn proposed to his new Brother to throw his salary of £200, drawn also from Church Missionary Society, into hotchpot, each party to take out half--£400 per ann. The average salary of the Bishoprics which he founded was under £500.]

[19] Before many years had passed the Bishop was deprived by death of the services of almost all the Clergy who had come out with him from England. The loss of Mr. Whytehead, his dear friend and chaplain, was one of the early trials which befell him during the first year of his life in New Zealand; and he mentions in his diary how keenly he felt the blow. "When the reality of the blow came upon me, it almost overpowered me for the time; for we have walked together in God's spiritual house so long, that his death will be like the loss of another brother. When I recollected the last scene before I quitted Wellington, the interment of poor W. Evans, my journey seemed, like the re-building of Jericho, to be begun and ended in the death of my children. Still I thank God that the clouded side of the pillar was not always before my mind; but from time to time the light would reappear. And I thought I saw in the signal mercies which God has already granted to this country an earnest of greater blessings; and then it seemed as if the death of those whom I loved and trusted most was another proof of His bounty in giving such men to be buried under the foundations of my infant Church for the generations that come after to remember and imitate." [Journal (S.P.G.) Part I; Page 98.] Mr. Whytehead had been Principal of S. John's College; and on March 21st, 1843, the students bore him to his rest at the east end of Waimate Church. Out of some funds left by him for the [19/20] benefit of the College, the site for the new buildings near Auckland was purchased by the Bishop; and thus his name was inseparably connected with S. John's College of the future.

The details of the Bishop's journeyings by land and by water would furnish volumes of interesting matter, even for the general reader,--as may be seen by the portions of his diary already published. His bright descriptions of the scenes through which he passed, the humourous account of his intercourse with the settlers and the natives, and the many contrivances to which he and his fellow-travellers were compelled to resort, all form so graphic a picture that the reader is carried on through forests and over lakes, up mountains, to hot volcanic springs, and along the coast for hundreds of miles in the little sailing vessel, with an interest which never fails; and it is almost forgotten that the experiences related are those of a Missionary Bishop, until the occurrence of such remarks as the following: "When I form my plan for the summer, I write down all the days in my journal with D.V. against the name of the place which I hope to reach on each day; if I succeed I add D.G. to the name." He frequently declares that Missionary life in New Zealand had no hardships, and that all difficulties could be easily overcome. For instance, when he wished to cross a river and no canoe was forthcoming, he says: "I blew up my air-bed, which is my state-barge on such occasion; and the natives having made a frame of sticks, Mr. Taylor crossed in safety upon it, as I had done before in the passage of Wananaki." How congenial to his tastes this mode of life was, and how strongly he became attached to the country and its inhabitants, may be judged from the following letter, written in 1848. He thus writes, in 1848, of his continued love for the country and its inhabitants: "You would not wonder that

I love New Zealand, if you knew as much of it as I do. The outline of every hill and the position of every rock is by this time written on my mind. If there be any truth in phrenology, I believe that the map of New Zealand will be stamped on some part of the organic substance of my brain. It is this intimate knowledge of localities, derived from frequent visits, which gives such a peculiar charm to the whole country and makes it seem like one's own. And so it is: for, like the gipsies, I pitch my tent where'er I please, or anchor my floating palace in any sheltered cove; and wherever I go, by sea or land, I am received as a friend and find some objects of moral and religious interest to leave upon the mind a pleasing recollection of the place." [Journal (S.P.G.), Pages 45, 54.]

This pleasant picture drawn by the Bishop was, however, too soon to be marred by the miserable strife between the two races, which gathered strength year by year until it culminated in war and bloodshed, and gallant young English officers lost their lives in Maori Pas, when the insurrection of William Tamihana (1863) had at length to be crushed by main force. An eminent colonist who might have been expected to take the part of the English, thus accounts for the growing alienation. "Nothing," he says, "can exceed the kindness and respect with which men like Sir George Grey and the Bishop of New Zealand treat the natives. But the mass of the townspeople give vent to arrogance and contempt, and speak of the Maoris both publicly and privately with disgust and dislike, using language peculiarly offensive to them." [The Maori King, by J. E. Gorst: page 75.] Serious results might have already arisen from this unfortunate breach between the two races, if the clergy had not used their influence to promote peace. "Here comes that Bishop to [21/22] prevent us from fighting the natives," was a saying often heard among the settlers: and "at the time when a general gathering of tribes would have destroyed the whole colony, it needed no more than that the clergy should be silent, to agitate the native people from one end of New Zealand to the other." [Journal, Part V. Page 38.]

The Bishop was asked by the Governor to mediate with the Maoris, in the vain hope of persuading them to give up their allegiance to their recently-elected king. Accordingly he presented himself at their meeting, which took place on a Sunday, and heard Tamihana, the king, preach on the text, "Behold how good and joyful a thing it is to dwell together in unity," and insist throughout the discourse on the advantages of the Maori tribes being united as one nation under the same king. But in the afternoon the Bishop who had obtained permission to preach to the assembled Maoris, took the same text, and eloquently pleaded for the union of English and native, of Pakeha and Maori, pointing out the impossibility of this union unless they agreed to submit to one law and one Sovereign. His words were these: "Here I am, a mediator for New Zealand: my work is mediation: I am not merely a Pakeha, or a Maori; I am a half-caste. I have eaten your food, I have slept in your houses; I have talked with you, journeyed with you, prayed with you, partaken of the Holy Communion with you. Therefore I say I am a half-caste. We are all half-castes. Your dress is a Maori-mat and English clothes. As we are all half-castes, let us dwell together with one faith, one love, and one law." [The Maori King, by J. E. Gorst. 1864.]

But all was in vain. His efforts to maintain peace between the two races were unsuccessful. And at last the political disaffection of the natives deepened into a religious abhorrence of [22/23] the very creed of the Pakeha, and into a downright apostacy from Christianity. This apostacy took the strangest and most repulsive form. The "Hau-hau" superstition was a compound of all the creeds known to the Maori mind; and whole tribes relapsed into heathen ways of life, and even learnt afresh their long-forgotten cannibalism. The Bishop's deep disappointment can easily be imagined. His one thought now was to pluck whatever brands his courage and skill could reach from this disastrous burning. In 1863 he thus wrote to Bishop Short, of Adelaide: "I have now one simple missionary idea before me, that of watching over the remnant that is left. Our native work is a remnant in two senses,--the remnant of a decaying people, and the remnant of a decaying faith. The works of which you hear are not the works of heathens; they are the works of baptized men, whose love has grown cold from causes common to all churches of neophytes from Laodicaea downwards." It was indeed the heaviest trial that could befall the Bishop. But how bravely he bore all such trials may be seen from the following words addressed, in 1864, to Bishop Hobhouse (then Bishop of Nelson), who had told him that his failing health was rendering him unequal to his post: "It may be some comfort to you to know that for seventeen years I laboured in the field divided now between six Bishops, and was sustained solely by that grace which is sufficient for us all, never once really having had a glimpse of satisfaction in any one part of my multifarious work,--Episcopal, Collegiate, Missionary,--but in all falling short of the lowest ideal, yet encouraged to hope that the time would come when the field would be adequately filled. God has justified in a wonderful manner the hope which His grace then enabled me to cherish." How few could labour on, without failing in courage and [23/24] hopefulness under such circumstances as these! And yet how great was his success in the end! "He founded a flourishing Church, and laid its foundations deep on Apostolic models. Like St. Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles he never spared himself in journeyings often, in perils often. * * * He gave the New Zealand Church a Constitution with a Synod to govern it, and saw the one Diocese to which he had been appointed divided and sub-divided into six Sees besides that of Melanesia,--viz. Auckland, Wellington, Waiapu, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin. A man of noble bearing, open countenance, great powers of endurance, with a fund of common sense and an amount of nautical knowledge which would not have disgraced an Admiral, he was the very Bishop for a Diocese where the sea was the ordinary means of communication." [The Times. April 13, 1878.]

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