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Historical Records of New Zealand

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. D. Coates

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. D. Coates.

Parramatta, 24th Feb., 1827.

Dear Sir,—

Before this reaches you you will have heard that the Wesleyan missionaries have left their station in Wangoroa, and returned to this colony, on account of some civil commotions which have occurred amongst the natives. They have suffered the spoiling of their goods, but no personal injury. I have not heard the real cause of the late disturbance amongst the natives. The following is one account: Shungee has lately suffered very great personal as well as family afflictions; some of his own tribe have behaved ill to him, in taking one of his favourite wives; his oldest son was shot in war; a near relation hung himself; his daughter died; and other heavy calamities came upon him: in consequence of which he resolved to leave his tribe, at least that part which he was not upon good terms with. As Wangoroa originally belonged to his father, he determined to go and reside there. If the inhabitants would allow him to take quiet possession of a portion he wanted, he would not disturb them, but if they refused he would take it by force. The natives did refuse to give up the land. Shungee then went to war. He was shot thro’, near his shoulder, as we hear, but not killed, and gained a victory. Part of Shungee’s people plundered the missionaries, and destroyed their premises, when the missionaries now came away, being greatly alarmed. The following circumstance occurred at or near the same time at the Bay of Islands: The brig Wellington had been sent from Port Jackson with 65 fellons to Norfolk Island. The sentence of death had been recorded against many of these men for crimes committed in the colony. The fellons took the Wellington, and carried her into the Bay of Islands, when 45 of these fellons landed, and got amongst the natives, which alarmed our missionaries. The Sisters, a whaler, made an attack upon the page 669 Wellington and retook her, and the natives delivered up the 45 who were on shore, when they were all brought to Port Jackson. Some of them have been tried, and are now under sentence of death. The Sisters came with them. As soon as I received the missionaries’ letters, and saw the Wesleyan missionaries, I determined upon going to New Zealand as soon as possible, in order to arrange the concerns of the mission, see the chiefs, and settle their disputes as far as I could. The missionaries have sent up several tons of their goods to Port Jackson in the Sisters, from the alarm they were in at the time the Sisters was there.

It was my intention to have gone in the Sisters; but while I was thinking upon it, His Majesty’s ship of war the Rainbow came in, and will sail soon for New Zealand. I immediately applied to the Capn., the Hon. Rous, for a passage, who accommodated me immediately. On obtaining a passage I wrote to the Archdeacon and the Govr. for leave of absence, which was readily granted. I am not under any apprehensions for the personal safety of the missionaries; at the same time, there are many important considerations which induce me to visit them at this time. I want to point out to the natives the greatness of their crimes in robbing the Wesleyan missionaries; to learn from the chiefs what security they will afford to the persons and property of the missionaries; what further civil commotions are likely to take place; and how they may be prevented; to rectify some hasty opinions which appear to have been formed amongst the missionaries relative to forming a colony of New Zealanders in N.S.W. (this subject requires great consideration before any movement is made, unless the state of New Zealand should be such that the missionaries could remain no longer in safety, which in my judgment is not likely to happen)…Mr. Norman and also Mr. Lisk will both remain in the colony until my return. The committee will then determine their station and employment, agreeable to the instructions received from the parent Committee. Before the present disturbance the prospect of success in the mission was very gratifying. Peace and union of spirit prevailed amongst the body. The Revd. Wm. Williams is a man of rare talent, piety, zeal, and Christian wisdom, and promises to do much. His heart is in the work, and so is his brother’s. Their wives are both devoted to the work, and most amiable and valuable women.

The mission has now been established about 13 years, and no man, woman, or child who were sent out to the work has died or had a bone broken, tho’ living in the midst of cannibals.

I remain, &c.,

D. Coates, Esq. Saml. Marsden.