Life and Work of Samuel Marsden
The New Zealand mission still continued to occupy Mr. Marsden's thoughts. He seems to have been always alert, turning every hint to account, seizing every occasion, and employing every likely instrument to promote the grand design. The excellent quality of the New Zealand flax* had not escaped him. He induced two young New Zealanders, whom he had brought with him to Parramatta, to visit England, which they did in H.M.S. Kangaroo, and were placed under the care of his friends in London. “I wish on no account,” he writes to Mr. Pratt, “that they should be idle; if they cannot be useful in forming a vocabulary, let them be put into a rope walk, and be kept close to labour while they remain in England.”
* Phormium tenax. had not escaped him. He induced two young New Zealanders, whom he had brought with him to Parramatta, to visit England, which they did in H.M.S. Kangaroo, and were placed under the care of his friends in London. “I wish on no account,” he writes to Mr. Pratt, “that they should be idle; if they cannot be useful in forming a vocabulary, let them be put into a rope walk, and be kept close to labour while they remain in England.”
‡ Probably Tetiri.
Madeley, Sept. 17, 1818.
Dear Sir—I am much obliged and thank you, Mr. Pratt, for the letter you sent me. I so pleased when Mr. Pratt finds a ship. I want a ship to go home. I have been to Coalport. I made four cups. Mr. Rose tell me, “You soon learn.” “Yes,” I say, “very soon learn with fingers, but book very hard,” etc.To Mr. Pratt.
The other letter is in a graver strain, and is from Teterree to Mr. Marsden:—
page break page break page 109Church Missionary House, October 12, 1818.
My Dear Friend,—I like Englishman much; he love New Zealand man. I very sick in missionary house, and very near die; nothing but bone. Kind friend missionary pray for me every night.
I kneel down in my bedroom every night, and pray to Jesus Christ our Saviour to learn me to read the book.
Very nice country England. I never see the King of England; he very poorly, and Queen Charlotte very poorly too.
I see the iron make, and bottle blow. Tooi blow a bottle, and I blow a bottle. I make four cups at China work, etc. Farewell, good friend.
Their English education being completed, the young chiefs returned to Parramatta, and Mr. Marsden embarked a second time for New Zealand, taking Tooi and Teterree with him, with several missionaries, three mechanics and their families. They landed at Rangheehoa,* in the Bay of Islands, on the 12th of August. The rival chiefs Shunghie and Koro-Koro now contended for the site of the new missionary settlement which Mr. Marsden contemplated, each being anxious that his own domain should be preferred, and offering a grant of land.
The spot was selected at Kiddee Kiddee (or Keri-Keri), a district in the territory of Shunghie, at the head of a fine harbour; but such was the distress of the disappointed chief, whose part was taken by young Tooi, that Mr. Marsden almost relented: “He made strong appeals to our feelings, and urged his request by every argument that he could advance, so that we were obliged to promise to accompany him on the next day to Parroa,† † and that we would build him and Tooi a house if the situation pleased us, and send one or two Europeans to reside amongst them.”
August 22.—We assembled on the beach for public worship, as there was no place sufficiently spacious to hold the people. We were surrounded with natives and a number of chiefs from different districts.
It was gratifying to be able to perform worship to the true God in the open air, without fear or danger, when surrounded by cannibals with their spears stuck in the ground, and their pattoo-pattoos and daggers concealed under their mats. We could not doubt but that the time was at hand for gathering in this noble people into the fold of Christ. Their misery is extreme, the prince of darkness has full dominion over their souls and bodies; under the influence of ignorance and superstition many devote themselves to death, and the chiefs sacrifice their slaves as a satisfaction for the death of any of their friends. This is a tyranny from which nothing but the Gospel can set them free.
During this three months' sojourn, besides the attention which Mr. Marsden gave to the missions in the Bay of Islands, he made a page 111 circuitous journey of 700 miles, exploring the country with a view to more extensive operations. His arrival overland, and in health, at the Bay of Islands, on his return, relieved the minds of his anxious friends the missionaries, and “gave them additional cause,” they say, “to bless and thank God for His protecting care, and that He had again heard and answered our supplications.” “There is not one in ten thousand, I think,” writes Mr. Hall, “who could or would have borne the privations, difficulties, and dangers, which he has undergone. I pray that he may reap the fruits of his labour by the New Zealanders turning from their degraded state to serve the only living and true God.”
In his journal on a tour to the River Shukeangha,† he writes thus:—
September 28th, 1819.—After we had passed the swamp, we came into a very open country, for many miles round covered with fern. The part through which we walked was gravelly, and not very good in general.
The wind increased toward evening, and blew strong from the rainy quarter, so that we had the prospect of a very wet night, without a single tree to shelter us from the storm for about eight miles from the swamp we had passed. At this distance was a wood, through which our road lay, which we were anxious to reach, if possible, in order to shelter ourselves from the wind and rain. With this hope we pushed forward, and arrived at the edge of the wood about nine o'clock. The rain now began to fall heavily. The natives cut branches of fern and boughs of trees, and made us a little shed under the trees, to afford us some shelter. The blackness of the heavens, the gloomy darkness of the wood, the roaring of the wind among the trees, the sound of the falling rain on the thick foliage, united with the idea that we were literally at the ends of the earth, with relation to our native land, surrounded with cannibals whom we knew to have fed on human flesh, and wholly in their power, and yet our minds free from fear of danger—all this excited in my breast such new, pleasing, and, at the same time, opposite sensations, as I cannot describe.page 113
† Hokianga Harbour.
While I sat musing under the shelter of a lofty pine, my thoughts were lost in wonder and surprise, in taking a view of the wisdom and goodness of God's providential care, which had attended all my steps to that very hour. If busy imagination inquired what I did there, I had no answer to seek in wild conjecture: I felt with gratitude that I had not come by chance; but had been sent to labour in preparing the way of the Lord in this dreary wilderness, where the voice of joy and gladness had never been heard: and I could not but anticipate with joyful hope the period when the Daystar from on high would dawn and shine on this dark and heathen land, and cause the very earth on which we then reposed to bring forth its increase, when God himself would give the poor inhabitants his blessing. After reflecting on the different ideas which crowded themselves upon my mind, I wrapped myself up in my great coat, and lay down to sleep.
He visited an island where he saw a singular spectacle. A number of natives were at work, breaking up the ground with a sort of spatula, or wooden spade,* to plant their sweet potato. Amongst these was Koro-Koro's head wife, or queen: “Her Majesty was working hard with a wooden spade, digging the ground for potatoes, with several of the women and some men.” The royal infant lay on the ground sprawling and kicking by her side. “The old queen earnestly requested that I would give her a hoe, showing me the difficulty she had in digging with a stick; a request with which I promised to comply.” We leave the reader to admire at leisure the Homeric simplicity of the scene, or to indulge in those sentiments of contemptuous pity to which Englishmen are possibly more prone.
* The Ko.
In another place, he found the head wife of Shunghie, though perfectly blind, digging in the same manner, surrounded by her women, and apparently with as much ease as the rest. The offer of a hoe in exchange for her spatula was accepted with joy. The scene drew forth these reflections: “When we viewed the wife of one of the most military chiefs, possessing large territories, digging with a spatula for her subsistence, this sight kindled within us the best feelings of the human heart. If a woman of this character, and blind, can thus labour with her servants, what will not this people rise to, if they can procure the means of improving their country, and of bettering their condition? Their temporal state must be improved by agriculture and the simple arts, in connection with the introduction of Christianity, in order to give permanence and full influence to the Gospel among them. Our God and Saviour, who is loving to every man, and whose tender mercies are over all His works, is now, blessed be His name, moving the hearts of His servants to send relief to the poor heathen, even to the very ends of the earth.”
Nothing can be more affecting than the meeting of Tooi and his sister, after the absence of the former in England. Tooi himself anticipated a scene, and half ashamed, when he saw his sister at a distance, tried to avoid the interview in public, and requested Mr. Marsden to order off the canoe in which they were approaching. But her love could not be restrained; in an instant she sprang into the boat, fell on her page 115 knees, and clung to Tooi. He saluted her in return; when she gave vent to her feelings in tears and loud lamentations, which she continued for about an hour. “Tooi conducted himself with great propriety, suppressing all his wild feelings, and at the same time treating his sister with all the soft and tender feelings of nature. I could not but view his conduct with admiration.”
These bursts of feeling were, it seems, quite natural; intense sorrow or savage exultation, the extremes of tenderness and of brutality, were indulged by turns, without any suspicion on their part of insincerity in either. Immediately after, Mr. Marsden mentions that he passed a canoe in which he recognised an old acquaintance, Hooratookie,† the first New Zealander introduced into civil society, Governor King having once entertained him with great kindness. Hooratookie was grateful; spoke of the Governor's daughter, then a child, with unfeigned regard, calling her by her Christian name, Maria. But looking into his large war-canoe, capable of holding from sixty to eighty men, with provisions, Mr. Marsden observed on the stern the dried head of a chief. “The face was as natural as life, the hair was long, and every lock combed straight, and the whole brought up to the crown, tied in a knot, and ornamented with feathers, according to the custom of the chiefs when in full dress. It was placed there as an incentive to revenge. It is possible the death of this chief may be revenged by his children's children; hence the foundation is laid for new acts of cruelty and blood from generation to generation.”
Yet this man was a ferocious cannibal; and when Mr. Marsden expressed his anxiety for the safety of the missionaries after he should have left them, he was calmed by the assurance that, as they had done them no harm, they had no satisfaction to demand, “and that as for eating us, the flesh of a New Zealander was sweeter than that of an European, in consequence of the white people eating so much salt.”
From this the conversation turned to that of eating human flesh, which they defended with arguments which to them appeared, no doubt, perfectly conclusive. They alleged that fishes, animals, and birds preyed upon one another; and that one god would devour another god, therefore there was in Nature sufficient warrant for the practice. Shunghie explained how it was the gods preyed on each other, “and that when he was to the southward, and had killed a number of people and was afraid of their god, he caught their god, being a reptile, and ate part of it, and reserved the remainder for his friends.”
Shunghie, the greatest of New Zealand warriors, was at the same time a striking page 118 instance of that union of gentleness and ferocity which characterizes this people. To the missionaries his kindness was always great, and his respect for Mr. Marsden knew no bounds. An instance of his good feeling may here be noticed. In the beginning of 1817, a naval expedition, under his command, sailed from the Bay of Islands. It consisted of 30 canoes, and about 800 men. Its object was to obtain peace with his enemies at the North Cape. The chief took an affectionate leave of the settlers, and told them that if he fell they must be kind to his children; and if he survived, he would take care of their families when they should die. The expedition returned, however, in about a fortnight, his people having quarrelled with those of Whangaroa, into which place they had put for refreshment; and being afraid, he said, that the Whangaroa people would attack the settlers in his absence, he, for the present, abandoned the expedition.
Shunghie was again preparing for war when Mr. Marsden paid his second visit to New Zealand; his army, to the number of several thousand men, was already assembled; his war-canoes were ready, and all his preparations complete; yet in deference to the remonstrances of Mr. Marsden, he again abandoned his scheme of conquest or revenge, and dismissed his followers.
Shunghie paid a visit to England about the year 1820. His majestic person, graceful manners, and gentle yet manly disposition were much admired. He was one of Nature's nobles. page 119 What might not be expected from such a man when he returned home again? George the Fourth invited him to Carlton Palace, and received him with marked attention, presenting him with some military accoutrements and costly firearms. Yet the heart of a savage never ceased to beat beneath this polished exterior, while his pride was fanned to madness by the consideration he received in England. “There is,” he exclaimed, “but one king in England; there shall be only one king in New Zealand.” Returning by way of Sydney he there happened to meet with Inacki,* another chief, with whom he had an ancient feud. He told him that when they got back to New Zealand he would fight him.
Amongst the horrible superstitions of the Maoris, one was that the eye of a victim thus devoured became a star in the firmament, and thus the ferocious Shunghie sought for honour and immortality. With the sword which he had received as a present from King George in England, he immediately cut off the heads of sixteen of his captives in cold blood; this was done to appease the spirit of his son-in-law, who had fallen in battle.
In this battle, Shunghie and his tribe were armed with muskets, his opponents only with the native weapons, the club and spear. His victory, therefore, was an easy one, but his revenge was cruel. A New Zealand traveller, who visited the spot in 1844, says: “The bones of 2000 men still lie whitening on the plain, and the ovens remain in which the flesh of the slaughtered was cooked for the horrible repasts of the victorious party, and yet so numerous were the slaves taken prisoners that the Nga-Puis (the tribe of which Shunghie was the head) killed many of them on their way to the Bay of Islands merely to get rid of them.”*
Such was the gentle Shunghie when his viler nature was let loose—a frightful specimen of human nature, varnished by education, but unvisited by the grace of God.
† Afterwards the first Bishop of Waiapu.
He appears to have arrived home, after this second visit to New Zealand, towards the close of November, 1819. In February, 1820, he was once more on his way back to New Zealand. His letters bear ample testimony to a fact which all who were acquainted with him in private life observed, that his heart was full of affection, and that his home was the scene of his greatest happiness. He had not returned, it is true, to be greeted with public honours; on the contrary, he was still a marked man. The Governor and many of the leading men in the colony were prejudiced against him.
We believe it is to this period of his life that an anecdote which we give on the best possible authority belongs. The Governor had consented to his recent visit to New Zealand with reluctance, and had limited the period of his absence with military precision, threatening at the same time to deprive him of his chaplaincy unless he returned within the given time. The last day arrived, and the expected vessel was not in sight. The Governor repeated his determination to those around him, and Mr. Marsden's friends were filled with anxiety, and his wife and family at length gave up all hope. Towards evening the long-wished-for sail appeared in the offing, and at eight o'clock in the evening Mr. Marsden quietly walked into the Governor's drawing-room with the laconic and yet respectful address: “Sir, I am here to report myself.”
But within the bosom of his family all was page 123 peace, and his presence shed light and joy on everything around him. His circumstances were prosperous, for his farm, which was almost entirely committed to Mrs. Marsden's care, was now a source of considerable income; his children were growing up to manhood under their parents' roof; his circle of friends and visitors was large, for there were no bounds to his simple hospitality; and the clergy of the colony, men like minded with himself, had now begun to regard him not only with affection, but with the reverence which belongs to years and wisdom and wide experience.
Yet at the call of duty this veteran was ready, on the shortest notice, to resume a life of such toil and hardship as nothing could have rendered welcome, its noveity once over, but motives the most solemn and commanding. H.M.S. Dromedary, Captain Skinner, was directed by the Government to proceed from Sydney to the Bay of Islands to receive a cargo of New Zealand timber for trial in the dockyards of England; and Sir Byam Martin, controller of the navy, knowing something of the energy of Mr. Marsden's character, and his great acquaintance with New Zealand, requested that he would accompany the Dromedary, which was joined by the Coromandel, in order to facilitate the object of their visit. With this request he felt it his duty to comply. He arrived in New Zealand on the 20th of February, and embarked on board the Dromedary to return on the 25th of November. page 124 Thus nearly the whole year was given to the service of New Zealand.
The time was not lost. On his arrival, a difficulty occurred which he only could have set at rest. The natives had come to the determination to exchange nothing, nor to do any kind of work, except for muskets and powder. His first business was to assemble the few European settlers, the advanced guard of that mighty band of European colonists which was soon to follow, and to persuade them not on any account to supply the natives with these weapons of war, in their hands so sure a source of mischief.
With regard to the duty of the missionaries there could be no doubt; and this he explained to all the powerful chiefs. They had come among them to preach the Gospel of Peace, how then could they he expected to furnish the means and implements of destruction? In writing to the Missionary Society at Home he says, and he must have written such a sentence with an aching heart: “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 those articles.”
After a short time spent in the Bay of Islands, at the mission, he proceeded, sometimes in company with Europeans, but for the most part alone, upon a tour of many hundred miles through regions yet untrodden by the foot of civilized men, mingling with the native tribes, accompanying them in their wanderings from place to place, teaching the first lessons of page 125 civilization and Gospel truth, and receiving everywhere from these savages the kindest attention and the most hospitable welcome in return.
On their way to Tourangha,* he writes, under the date June the 20th:—
The day was far spent when we reached the plain. We walked on till the sun was nearly set, when we stopped and prepared for the night. The servants, who had the provisions to carry, were very tired. There were no huts on the plain, nor any inhabitants, and we were therefore compelled to take up our lodging in the open air. I was very weary, having had no rest the preceding night; and having come a long day's journey, so that I felt that rest would be very acceptable, even on a heap of fern or anything else.
The peculiar scene that surrounded me, furnished the mind with new matter for contemplation on the works and ways of God. The mystery of His providence, and the still greater mystery of His grace, were all unsearchable to me. I had come from a distant country, and was then at the ends of the earth, a solitary individual, resting on an extensive wild, upon which no civilized foot had ever before trodden. My companions were poor savages, who nevertheless vied with each other in their attentions to me. I could not but feel attached to them. What would I have given to have had the Book of Life opened, which was yet a sealed book to them,—to have shown them that God who made them, and to have led them to Calvary's mount, that they may see the Redeemer who had shed His precious blood for the redemption of the world, and was there set up as an ensign for the nations.page 126
* Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty.
But it was not in my power to take the veil from their hearts, I could only pray for them, and entreat the Father of Mercies to visit them with His salvation. I felt very grateful that a Divine revelation had been granted to me; that I knew the Son of God had come, and believed that He had made a full and sufficient sacrifice or atonement for the sins of a guilty world. With compassionate feelings for my companions, under a grateful sense of my own mercies, I lay down to rest, free from all fear of danger.
It was during this tour that the following letter was addressed to the lady of his excellent friend, Dr. Mason Good. Let it stand on record as an evidence of the power of true religion in maintaining amidst the rudest scenes, and the rough warfare of an adventurous life, all the gentleness and affection of the most refined and polished society of a Christian land.
New Zealand, Sept. 22nd, 1820.
DearMadam,—Your kind favour arrived in the Bay of Islands September 7, the evening I returned from a long journey. I had no sooner cast my eye over your letter, than busy imagination transported me from the solitary woods, dreary wastes, and savage society of New Zealand, into “the polished corner” of Guilford Street, and surrounded me with every cordial that could refresh the weary traveller, revive the fainting spirits, and blow the languishing spark of Christian love with a heavenly flame. I had literally been living for weeks a savage life, as far as outward circumstances went. I ate, I slept in the thick wood, in a cave, or on the banks of a river, or sea, with my native companions, wherever the shadows page 127 of the evening, or gathering storm, compelled us to seek for shelter.
Every day as I advanced from tribe to tribe, I was introduced to new acquaintances; my object was to gain from observation and experience that knowledge of savage life which I could not learn from books, and to make myself well acquainted with the wants, wishes, and character of the native inhabitants, to enable me, if my life should be spared, to aid to the utmost of my power in their deliverance from their present temporal miseries, which are great upon them, and from their much sorer bondage to the prince of darkness. I am happy in having obtained this object to a certain extent, at the expense of a few temporal privations, and a little bodily evil.
When I have lain down upon the ground after a weary day's journey, wrapped up in my great coat, surrounded only by cannibals, I often thought how many thousands are there in civil life, languishing upon beds of down, and saying, with Job, “in the evening would God it were morning,” while I could sleep free from fear or pain, far remote from civil society under the guardian care of Him who keepeth Israel.
Though I everywhere met with the greatest kindness from the natives, as well as hospitality, for they always gave me the best fern-root, potato, or fish in their possession, yet I could never have duly estimated the sweets of civil life, and the still greater mental gratification of Christian communion, if I had not passed through these dark regions of Satan's dominions, on which the dayspring from on high hath never cast a single ray. You cannot conceive how great a feast your letter was, after so long a fast. I was instantly present with every person you mentioned, and lived over again some of those happy moments I once spent under your hospitable roof. A page 128 sacred warmth flowed round my soul, my heart was sweetly melted under the influence of that pure and undefiled religion which dropped from your pen, like the heavenly dew, as it ran through every line.
The immediate object of his visit being accomplished, he returned to Sydney, where a strange reception awaited him.
Governor Macquarie had sent to Lord Bathurst a despatch in answer to the statements of the senior chaplain, already noticed, in which he brought heavy charges against the latter, which deeply affected his character, not only as a Magistrate, but as a Christian man and a minister.
The office of a Magistrate he had been compelled to undertake in common with the other clergy of the colony, who were all included in the Commission of the Peace. For this there was no justification except hard necessity. Mr. Marsden, however, had long been weary of the irksome task, and had once again requested the Governor to accept his resignation. This the Governor had expressly declined to do, on the ground that “his services as a Magistrate were too beneficial to the public”; but in fact, it would seem, only that he might have the opportunity of inflicting upon him the annoyance of a formal dismissal, which was shortly afterwards notified in the Sydney Gazette.
Lord Bathurst, in consequence of the Governor's despatch, determined upon a step which gave great satisfaction to Mr. Marsden's friends at Home, and sent out a Commissioner to investigate upon the spot the truth of these and page 129 various other matters affecting the state of the colony, which had now obtained public notoriety, and had already engaged the attention of the British Parliament; and Commissioner Bigge arrived during Mr. Marsden's absence to manage the inquiry.
On his return we find him seeking a public and searching examination of his whole conduct. Addressing a letter to the Commissioner, he says: “I am happy to meet every charge that can be brought against me. I have no wish to do more than set my character right in the opinion of his Majesty's Government and in that of the Christian world; and I am unfeignedly thankful to you for the fair opportunity you afford me to justify my public and private conduct.”
Among the many charges brought before the Commission of Inquiry was that already preferred against Mr. Marsden by the Governor in his despatch to Lord Bathurst, namely, that he had been guilty of extraordinary severity as a Magistrate. Another, scarcely consistent with the first, was that more profligacy and depravity were to be found amongst the convicts of Parramatta than in any other district, and that this was owing to the neglect of the senior chaplain.
Perhaps it would have been impossible to bring forward any two charges of a more painful nature.
Happily the first was easily disproved, or rather it fell at once to the ground page 130 for want of proof. The second was the more cruel, because, while the facts bore out the statement, Mr. Marsden was the only public man in the colony who was not guilty, by his silence at least, to some extent of the iniquities which the Governor affected to deplore. Parramatta was, in fact, the receptacle of the most hardened and depraved of the convict class; it received the sweepings of the gaols in every district. There were nearly 200 women and 700 male convicts there, while the factory was so small as not to be able to contain more than 60 women, and the remainder were obliged to find lodging for themselves or to sleep in the open fields.
This was Mr. Marsden's answer to the Commissioner; it was a repetition of the remonstrance which he alone had the courage, two years before, to present to the Governor, and then to remit Home to England.
Thus he found himself arraigned as the cause of those very evils—evils, too, lying at his own door—which he had obtained so much obloquy for attempting to remove.
A third charge was that he had squandered public money in building the Female Orphan House. He showed, however, on his defence, that the Lieutenant-Governor, Judge-Advocate, and others, who formed the Committee, had examined the accounts and passed them every quarter, and that the Governor had afterwards approved of them, and published them in the Sydney Gazette three years before the charge was made. It now appeared further page 131 that Mr. Marsden had advanced largely to the institution, to the amount, indeed, of more than £800, for the mere cost of the building; “and this,” he says, “must have been known to the Governor, as I was obliged to apply to him for repayment for some of these sums, and received an answer that he could not assist me.”
Governor Macquarie left the impression of his genius upon the youthful institutions of Australia, where his memory is still honoured as that of a great man; yet his conduct to Mr. Marsden was oppressive and unjust. It is consoling to know that there had been nothing in the personal conduct of the latter unworthy of his sacred calling.
The Commissioner, at the conclusion of the investigation, inserts, for Mr. Marsden's information, the Governor's testimonial of his character, which, considering the charges brought against him, certainly does go far to prove that misapprehension and exasperated feelings had betrayed his Excellency into a warmth and precipitancy of which, in moments of less irritation, he felt ashamed. “The Governor admits that Mr. Marsden's manner to him has been constantly civil and accommodating, and that nothing in his manner could provoke the Governor's warmth. The Governor admits his qualifications, his activity, and his unremitting vigilance as a Magistrate, and in society his cheerful disposition and readiness to please.”
While this inquiry was pending at Sydney, the Governor addressed a letter to Lord page 132 Sidmouth, and published it in England. It was a defence of his own line of policy against various attacks which had been made against it in the House of Commons by the Hon. H. Grey Bennett and others. In the course of his defence, the Governor not only ridiculed Mr. Marsden's letter on the necessity for a female factory, and his account of the melancholy condition of the convict women, but charged him with being accustomed to traffic in spiritous liquors, and in consequence of being displeased at having so many publichouses in his neighbourhood.
Malicious and absurd as the accusation was, carrying with it its own refutation, it found some who were weak or wicked enough to believe, or to repeat it. It was revived in the colony, and republished in one of the Sydney newspapers after Mr. Marsden's death. Such is the tenacity of slander. “Only throw mud enough,” says the eloquent Mr. Burke, “and some of it will be sure to stick.”
Mr. Marsden felt his character so seriously compromised that he wrote Home to the Minister in self-defence, and also addressed a statement of the case to the new Governor, Sir T. Brisbane. After showing the absurdity, and indeed the impossibility of the charge, since, in the first place, the Governor himself had granted a monopoly to certain contractors to purchase and land all spirits brought to the colony, and because in the second he had no license, he adds: “Such is the watchful eye that was kept upon my whole page 133 conduct by night and by day, if I had been guilty of that or any other impropriety, it would have been impossible for me to have escaped detection.”
So far as any pretence of truth could have been urged in support of this vile slander, namely that “he kept a public-house for the sale of ardent spirits, selling them in any quantity from a pint to a puncheon,” it may be stated in his own words: “In the infancy of the colony, previously to my arrival, barter was established among all classes, from the Governor downwards. As there was neither beer nor milk, tea nor sugar, to be purchased at any price, wine and spirits became the medium of exchange. As the colony progressively advanced in agriculture, commerce, and wealth, barter gradually decreased, and money transactions became more general. I can affirm that for the last eighteen years I have not had in my possession as much spirits as would allow my servants half a pint a head per week. And at no period of my residence did I ever purchase spirits for sale.”*
* Rations of spirits, as in the navy, would seem at this time to have been regularly served out to the servants and labourers in the colony. (Note by the biographer.)
On the arrival of Sir Thomas Brisbane, in 1821, to assume the government of New South Wales, Mr. Marsden immediately waited upon him, when he received the assurance of his countenance and support, not only as a colonial chaplain, but as the representative of the great missionary work going forward in New Zealand.
Such encouragement was opportune; he thanked God and took courage; for the difficulties were great, and from time to time grievous disappointments and vexations had occurred. It was about this time that the seminary at Parramatta, for the education of New Zealanders, was abandoned. It had its origin with Mr. Marsden, and was conducted for some time in his own house. It was, indeed, one of his most favourite plans, and its failure was a severe disappointment. It was found, however, that the change of habits and of climate was injurious to the health of the New Zealanders, while the results were not always such as might have been desired. But nothing could damp his ardent zeal, or quench his spirit of enterprise.
“I see,” he says, writing to his friends at Home, “the way preparing for the spread of the Gospel. I feel the fullest conviction that the South Sea Islands will now receive the blessing of civilization and the Gospel. The work is great, and many difficulties may oppose it. The foundation is now firmly laid, and no page 135 power on earth can overturn it. To impart these blessings to the New Zealanders is an object worthy of the British nation: a more noble undertaking could not be suggested to the Christian world.” This at least was not the mere declamation of the platform, but the deliberate expression of the views of one who had toiled and suffered in the cause for twenty years, and had scarcely been cheered, at present, with the sight of a single New Zealand convert. “Here,” at least, “is the patience of the saints.”
His home duties were not neglected; nor was his the easy philanthropy which overlooks the humble claims of the rustic flock or obscure parish, while it stalks abroad on some heroic enterprise which may feed the vanity, while it pacifies the conscience, of the actor. Through his exertions Parramatta had now its association in behalf of the Bible Society, which already collected funds for the parent society in England.
Mr. Marsden's anxiety for the female convicts was not to be abated by ridicule or opposition. We find him, in August, 1822, addressing a letter to Dr. Douglas, the Police Magistrate of Parramatta, on their behalf. Some of the sentiments are beautifully touching. The substance of the plea is “that these poor creatures, who are confined in the penitentiary, and who have committed no offence in these settlements, be allowed the privilege of attending at least once on the Sabbath Day on public worship.”page 136
The request was surely reasonable, and in urging it he rises to a pathetic eloquence:
There is no nation under the heavens in whose bosom the wretched and unfortunate find so warm a reception as in our own. The unhappy situation of the female convicts during their confinement in the different gaols in the empire interests the best feelings of the human heart. They are instructed by the counsels of the wise, consoled by the prayers of the pious, softened by the tears of the compassionate, and relieved by the alms of the benevolent. The noble senator does not pass over their crimes and their punishments unnoticed; he is anxious for the prevention of the former, and the mitigation of the latter; nor does the wise politician consider them beneath his care.
He speaks with natural exultation of “the watchful eye with which the British Government provides for their wants and conveniences during their voyage to New South Wales, even more liberally than for the brave soldiers and sailors who have fought the battles of their country, and never violated its laws”; and then follows a sentence which leaves us uncertain whether more to admire his patriotism or the gentleness of his nature and the warmth of his heart:
This apparently singular conduct may seem as if the British Government wished to encourage crime and afterwards reward it; but upon a nearer view this principle of action will be found to spring spontaneously from virtue, from that inherent, laudable, Christian compassion and anxiety, which the father of the prodigal felt for his lost son, which kept alive page 137 the spark of hope that he might one day return to his father's house and be happy. This parable of our blessed Saviour's most beautifully exhibits the character of the British nation towards her prodigal sons and daughters, and is more honourable to her than all the victories she has achieved by sea and land.”
The welfare of the female convict population lay near to Mr. Marsden's heart. Scarcely his beloved New Zealanders and their missions engaged more of his affection. His plans for the improvement of their temporal condition, and his incessant labours for their spiritual welfare, occupied no small portion of his time and thoughts; and there is good reason to believe that his labours amongst these outcasts were not “in vain in the Lord.” Standing, as we should have thought, himself in need of encouragement, he stimulated the languid zeal of others. Mrs. Fry and other philanthropists were now engaged in their great work of amending the prison discipline at Home. We have inserted a letter from that excellent lady to Mr. Marsden. His answer to it must have cheered her spirits amidst the many disheartening toils to which she was exposed:
“The Wellington had just arrived when,” he says, “I went on board, and was highly gratified with the order which appears to have been maintained in that vessel. I could not have conceived that any ship could have been fitted up to have afforded such accommodation to the unfortunate exiles as the Wellington was. All the women looked clean, healthy, and well. They had not that low, vicious, squalid, page 138 dirty look which the women at former periods have had when they first arrived. I believe there has been very great attention paid by the master and surgeon to their morals and comfort in every possible way. The very sight of the arrangements of the vessel showed that the humane and benevolent wishes of the Christian world had been carried into effect, and proved beyond all contradiction that order and morality can be maintained upon so long a voyage in a female convict ship…. The present inquiry into the state of this colony, before the Committee of the House of Commons, will greatly benefit this country. I can speak from painful experience that for the last twenty-six years, it has been the most immoral, wretched society in all the Christian world.
“Those who are intimate with the miseries and vices of large gaols alone can form any idea of the colony of New South Wales. I know what Newgate was when I was in London, in the years 1808 and 1809. I was then in the habit of seeing that miserable abode of vice and woe. What has since been done in Newgate may be done elsewhere, if suitable means are adopted by those in authority, seconded by individual exertions; much might be done in these colonies towards restoring the poor exiles to society with the countenance and support of the Government. Great evils are not removed without great difficulties. When I visited the Wellington, I saw much had been done in England, and more than I could have credited, had I not been an eye witness of the situation of the females.”
Sir Thomas Brisbane, the new Governor, was not slow to perceive the worth of services such as those which Mr. Marsden had rendered to the colony, and pressed him to accept once more the office of a Magistrate.page 139
In reference to this, “I wish,” says Mr. Marsden, in a letter to Dr. Mason Good, “to avoid the office if I can; but I fear it will not be in my power, without giving offence. The Judges as well as the public and the Magistrates have urged me to take the bench at the present time.” In the same letter, he adds: “I feel happy that I have stood firm against all calumnies and reproaches, and have been the instrument of bringing to light the abominations that have been committed here: and some of the evils are already remedied.” The friends of religion and virtue in England could not fail to sympathize with him, being well assured that substantially he was fighting the cause of true piety and equal justice, against profligacy and oppression.
Mr. Wilberforce wrote to him in the year 1823, with his usual warm affection:—
“Though I may be a somewhat doubtful and unfrequent correspondent, I am not an uncertain friend; and where good will, as in your instance, is grounded on early esteem, and cemented by the consciousness of having many mutual friends, I should be ashamed if that should suffer any decay from the impression not being often renewed. It was with no small concern that I heard that anything unpleasant had occurred. I had meant to endeavour to obtain a sight of any letters or papers to our common friends, and to have consulted with them whether any—and, if any, what—measures could be taken for the benefit of your colony, or in your own support, which, without a compliment, I hold to be in a degree coincident…. And now, my dear sir, farewell: but I ought not to conclude without congratulating you on the progres- page 140 sive advancement, as I trust, of the religious and moral interests of your Australian world, and begging that you will always inform me unreservedly whenever you conceive I can be of use publicly, or to yourself personally.”
The report of Commissioner Bigge was made public soon afterwards; and with it the clouds which had gathered so long around the chaplain of Parramatta were at last dispersed. He was too prominent a mark not to be again assailed. Always in the front of the battle when the oppressed required protection, or when evil doers in high positions incurred bold assaults, it was not in the nature of things that he should lead a quiet life. His calling was peculiar; so were his talents; and the latter were admirably fitted for the former. But for the present his triumph was complete, and the Government at Home appreciated his faithful service. The document which follows requires no further comment. It was not received till some time had elapsed, but we insert it here as a fitting conclusion to the chapter:—
Private Secretary's Office, Sydney,
9th April, 1825.
Reverend Sir,—I have the honour to acquaint you, by command of his Excellency the Governor, that Earl Bathurst, having taken into consideration your long and useful services in the colony of New South Wales, has determined upon increasing your stipend to the sum of four hundred pounds sterling, per annum.page 141
I have further the pleasing satisfaction of coupling with it his Lordship's instructions to the Governor, to acquaint you that it has been done in consideration of your long, laborious, and praiseworthy exertions in behalf of religion and morality.