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Historical Records of New Zealand

Dr. Fairfowl’s Evidence

Dr. Fairfowl’s Evidence.

Questions. Answers.
Q. During your stay at the Bay of Islands and at Wangaroa in New Zealand had you any opportunities of observing the natives of the country? A. Several, both on shore and on board the Dromedary.
Q. Upon the first arrival of the Dromedary in the Bay of Islands, did the natives come on board immediately? A. The chiefs only were allowed to come on board, and those who had relations amongst their countrymen passengers on the ship from New South Wales.page 551
Q. Did the arrival of so large a ship appear to create any surprize or alarm? A. The natives frequently expressed a jealousy of the soldiers that were on board, and seemed to hold them in great dread, and wished to be acquainted with the purport of their visit. They at first seemed to think that it was not necessary to have soldiers for the purpose of cutting wood, and they suspected that they had been sent to punish them for their cruelties to the crew of the Boyd. This apprehension seemed to exist more particularly at Wangaroa, where the crew perished.
Q. Did they seem to dismiss their apprehensions when the object of the visit was explained? A. At the Bay of Islands I consider that their apprehensions were soon quieted; it took a longer time at Wangaroa.
Q. Was any hostilty shown by them on the arrival of the Dromedary at Wangaroa? A. The chief at the mouth of the harbour had collected the whole of his force, and stood upon the defensive. A boat was then sent from the Dromedary to communicate with them. They made no friendly sign, but they allowed the boat to pull up to the shore, and then some old men and women came down and spoke to the party. We had no further communication with them at that time till one of the chiefs with whom we had been acquainted at the Bay of Islands invited us into the harbour. After that the chiefs came on board and expressed apprehensions of the nature of our visit, but soon became familiar.
Q. Did they show any disposition to prevent cutting of the wood? A. None.
Q. Did they show any eagerness to promote it? A. At first they did, but their eagerness soon relaxed, when they found they could not obtain the barter for the wood they wished.
Q. What barter was offered them? A. Hatches, axes, saws, spades, hoes, and a variety of iron tools. They soon were over-stocked with them, and became indifferent about them. Their constant talk was about muskets and gunpowder.
Q. Did the natives about Wangaroa appear to possess many muskets? A. I believe not. I think that their whole stock did not exceed five, and three of these seemed unserviceable.page 552
Q. Did they appear skilful in the use of them? A. By no means.
Q. Did they understand the means of repairing them? A. They did not, except the new stocking them.
Q. Do you know whether many South Sea whalers had visited Wangaroa before the arrival of the Dromedary? A. None, I believe, since the affair of the Boyd.
Q. Did you see the natives when they were at work in cutting timber for the Dromedary? A. I did frequently.
Q. Were they expert, and did they work well? A. In cutting the timber they excelled our own people. They would fall it much quicker and do it neater. In drawing the timber out of the woods they gave very little assistance, except at first when the payment for their labor was new to them.
Q. Do you know what were the terms upon which the trees were obtained? A. I think it was at first one axe for cutting a large tree, and payment in small flat pieces of iron and glass beads and fish-hooks for the labor of dragging it out of the roads. We soon found that this labour exceeded their strength. A party of our men assisted them with tackles, and at last performed the labor themselves.
Q. What is the nature of the soil at the Bay of Islands? A. The Bay of Islands is very hilly. The hills are composed of basalt, covered with a stiff cold and poor clay, with a considerable mixture of iron in it. There are a few vallies near the shore that contain good soil, and are well watered by small streams.
Q. Do the best trees grow upon the fine soil in the ravines? A. They grow in the rich soil, either in the vallies or on the steep sides of the hills.
Q. Do you think that near the Bay of Islands there is a larger proportion of good than of bad soil? A. The bad soil generally exceeds the good.
Q. Did you see any land that had been cultivated by the missionaries? A. We saw some that had grown crops of wheat and barley and maize.
Q. Had they a good appearance? A. In general they were extremely thin, and two fields were obliged to be resown. I conceive that this was owing to bad agriculture. It was land that had never been turned up before, and it ought to have lain fallow for the first year.page 553
Q. Is the land much covered with fern? A. All the land that does not bear wood is covered with very thick and long fern, sometimes 13 or 14 feet long. This obstructs the growth of every other vegetation. When the fern approaches the height of six feet or so, the land may be considered to be of good quality.
Q. How many acres of land do you conceive that these missionaries have now in cultivation at the Bay of Islands? A. I think not more than eight before the Dromedary left this country. They had begun to do more, having the two teams of bullocks that belonged to Government.
Q. How were these bullocks fed during the time they were in New Zealand? A. They fed on the low banks of the small rivers at Wangaroa, where they found an abundance of canary grass growing on the old grounds of the natives, and the wild cabbage and other European garden seeds now grown wild. On this food they got fat.
Q. Were they in good condition when you came away? A. Very good working condition.
Q. Have the missionaries any cattle of their own at the Bay of Islands? A. Mr. Marsden has about 23 head that are grazing upon the missionary grounds, besides three or four cows that have escaped and are running wild in the woods.
Q. Did they appear to be in good condition? A. They appeared to be in very good condition.
Q. Was there a bull amongst them? A. The missionaries had killed one as it had got wild, but Mr. Marsden has carried another over in the Dromedary.
Q. Then no use had been made of these cattle in agriculture by the missionaries? A. They were chiefly heifers and cows, and besides there was no person to break them in.
Q. Did you observe the state of the missionaries’ gardens, and had they any European vegetables? A. The garden was well worked and was bearing a very luxuriant crop of almost every European vegetable. This was when we left the Bay of Islands. It had much improved, and was indeed entirely made during the time we were in the island.
Q. Do the natives appear to cultivate and to like European vegetables? A. They cultivate potatoes and work the ground well, and clear it of weeds, but they do not seem to value other vegetables, tho’ they gather them in their wild state. They also cultivate the water melon.page 554
Q. Are they to be found in abundance, and of what kind? A. They abound wherever land is found clear of fern, and they consist of the cabbage, turnip, and radish.
Q. Do the natives offer them to the ship’s crew and bring them to sell? A. They brought them alongside in abundance, and sold them to the crew, who were furnished with fish-hooks to procure them.
Q. Did you find that the natives had a sufficiency of pork and potatoes to enable them to supply the ship’s company with them from time to time? A. They had, I believe, a sufficiency of both, but they would not sell them for our articles of barter.
Q. Do you think that if gunpowder and arms had been offered them that they would have brought a sufficient supply? A. I have no doubt they would. If the neighbouring tribes had not a sufficient supply they could have obtained them from the more distant ones.
Q. Did you find the pork good that you tasted? A. Very good.
Q. Would an axe, do you think, purchase a well sized pig in New Zealand? A. I think it would.
Q. Did any difficulties or quarrels arise between the crews and guard of the Dromedary and the natives during their stay at New Zealand? A. Individual quarrels, I believe, did take place, and it generally ended by the New Zealander being knocked down while the others stood by. This occurred once or twice, not more, but it did not at all provoke any national feeling. I never observed that to be excited when the quarrel was between individuals, and even in quarrels that arose amongst themselves.
Q. Did the New Zealand women come willingly on board the Dromedary? A. Always. They were eager to get on board. Prostitution is not reckoned a crime or a disgrace amongst the unmarried women, and the chiefs come and offer their sisters and daughters for prostitution and expect a present in return.
Q. Did you observe that the women who thus offer themselves are very numerous at the Bay of Islands? A. Not particularly so; but the whole unmarried female population appeared to be at the service of the ship.
Q. Did they offer any of their female slaves in this manner? A. I only saw one instance in which a master brought his female slave on board the ship one night, and he called the next morning for her, expecting to obtain her hire. She had received nothing, and I saw him beat her for it afterwards very cruelly.page 555
Q. Did you hear any complaints from the natives of the ill-usage they had received from the whaling vessels? A. Not many. I heard the circumstances of one that took place on board the Catherine, whaler. A native named Wycaddee had been on board, and he told me that he had been accused of theft, and had been taken up and flogged and beat about the shoulders with a rope till he spit blood, that at last the pain was so dreadful that he broke away from the lashings and jumped overboard. I saw Captain Graham of the Catherine a few months after this had happened, and spoke to him about it, and he told me that he was not on board at the time the chief mate had started the native with a rope for theft. The tribe to which the man belonged would not go near the ship afterwards till Captain Graham made it up with them and gave them a present. To this day I believe that murder even may be committed.
Q. Does much distrust appear to prevail between the crews of the whaling vessels and the natives? A. No; on the contrary, much confidence. The ships are always crowded with the natives.
Q. Did you observe that there were many indications of the venereal disease amongst the natives at the Bay of Islands? A. I think I observed fourteen or fifteen cases of that kind at the Bay of Islands. But it has not spread much amongst them, as they strictly taboo the infected persons.
Q. Have they any means of cure? A. They have not.
Q. Do you believe that the disease is very virulent? A. It acquires great virulence from want of care and medical assistance, and it almost always terminates fatally. The natives have a great dread of it, and call it the Europe god.
Q. What other diseases did you observe amongst the native Zealanders? A. The most prevalent are pneumonia in its acute stage, and also terminating in consumption, inflammation of the bowels, cholic, dysentery, rheumatism, ulcers.
Q. Did you perform any cures yourself upon any of the natives? A. I did several with acute complaints, not with chronic.
Q. Did they appear to be very sensible of the effect of medicine? A. Very much so. I bled one chief, who exhibited his arm and the operations for several miles round.page 556
Q. Are there no medical men on board the South Sea whalers? A. I found none, and I believe it is not the custom to carry them.
Q. Do any of the missionaries at the Bay of Islands understand anything of medicine? A. Not in the least. They have medicines, however.
Q. Did you observe that the natives treated the missionaries with respect? A. The chiefs did, but in their absence the lower classes frequently take advantage of them, and sometimes insult them.
Q. Do you know from what cause this proceeds? A. Generally from the refusal of the missionaries to give them presents, or to give them more for their labor than they are willing or think it is worth.
Q. Do you know what the articles are in which the missionaries deal with the natives? A. All kinds of manufactured iron and a very small quantity of slops.
Q. Do you know whether the missionaries salt pork and send it to Sydney? A. I know that salt pork has been exported from New Zealand to Sydney. Mr. Marsden also has told me that a considerable quantity has been sent up.
Q. From your conversation with the missionaries at New Zealand, what hope do they appear to entertain of civilizing the natives? A. They entertain great hopes of civilizing the natives.
Q. By what means? A. By means of the schools.
Q. Did you attend any of their schools? A. There was no school open when we were there. Mr. Kendall was absent. The missionaries complained that they were obliged to give up their school as they were not able to feed their scholars, and they would not attend the school unless they were fed, as they live sometimes at a great distance.
Q. Do you believe that much progress has been made in teaching hitherto? A. Scarcely any. Those who have been at school appear to have forgot what they learned except the domestic servants of the missionaries. Some of the females who are in the houses of the missionaries have learned to sew, mark linen, and to wash, and they wear European cloaths.
Q. Did you learn from Mr. Buller that he had often acted as a Magistrate under the commission that he holds from Governor Macquarie in investigating the complaints of the natives against the outrages of the crews of British vessels? A. I never heard from Mr. Buller that any complaints of that kind had been made to him.page 557
Q. Do you believe that the missionaries trade with the whalers? A. They have traded very much with them, but it is now forbidden. Mr. Marsden in his last visit expressly forbade them to trade. If, therefore, it is done now it is done clandestinely.
Q. In what articles do you believe they have traded with the whalers? A. The missionaries never made any secret of having dealt in muskets and gunpowder, and defended it by saying that they could not get provisions without, as the S. Sea whalers drove them out of the market by offering these articles, which the natives preferred to all others.
Q. Did the missionaries ever say that they had suffered from want of food? A. They never said that they suffered, but that their supply was less abundant, and less easy to be procured from not having muskets to give in return. I have known Mr. Buller to go 15 miles for the purpose of purchasing a few hogs, and at that time he said he had not a piece of pork in his house.
Q. Had you any opportunity of knowing whether the introduction of arms and gunpowder had made the native wars more destructive? A. From information from the natives, the regular pitched battles in which gunpowder is most serviceable are not bloody; one side generally gives way when a few fall. This also is effected when the armies are at some distance from each other and before they can come in contact or make use of their own destructive weapons. In attacking a fort or Hippah, those who have muskets have a decided superiority, and when one tribe that has muskets attacks a tribe that has none, the latter generally quit the field altogether. From this cause the tribes of the Bay of Islands are decidedly superior to the tribes that used to attack them before, and there has been no invasion of the Bay of Islands lately.
Q. But have these tribes of the Bay of Islands carried on war against others? A. They have, and are the invaders. There are always one or two parties about from the Bay of Islands on warlike expeditions. When we arrived there were not less than seven expeditions absent.
Q. Did the missionaries say that they had ever made any attempts to suppress this desire for war amongst the natives and had been successful? A. Mr. Marsden has frequently pursuaded the natives not to go to war, and they have promised him to do so, but have not kept their words. War seems to be their delight, and nothing but a coercive force will keep them at peace.page 558
Q. What is the nature of the rocks on and near the shores of the Bay of Islands? A. Principally basalt, and running into a soft claystone, which is generally lost in a clay soil.
Q. Did you observe any limestone, or was any specimens of it brought to you? A. I saw no limestone, but there was a plentiful supply of cockle shells on the beaches, and in very many places above high water mark. The cliffs for several miles near the Harbour of Wangaroa are of a coarse pudding stone.
Q. Do you conceive the climate of New Zealand to be a healthy one? A. A very healthy climate, tho’ when the winter season approaches it is changeable.
Q. What was the greatest degree of cold that you experienced, and what was the greatest degree of heat? A. Not below…but then filmy flakes of ice have been found in shady places in the months of June and July.
Q. Are the rains very heavy? A. They are.
Q. Do you conceive the summer season is very dry? A. I do not, except for two months in the year, and even then partial showers may be expected. I conceive it to be rather a humid climate, and remarkably well adapted for the growth of grass.
Q. Did you observe any high mountains? A. None. I did not see any that. I conceived to be above 800 ft. high. The country, however, that I saw near the coasts consists of low steep hills irregularly placed, with ravines between them.