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Historical Records of New Zealand

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Butterworth

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Butterworth.

Parramatta, July 21st, 1821.

Honoured Sir,—

I have learned that it is the intention of the Committee of the Wesleyan Missionary Society to send one missionary to N. Zealand. Tho’ my opinion has not been called for on this subject, yet I trust you will excuse the liberty I now take in stating my sentiments on this matter to you. No person is so well acquainted with New Zealand as myself, and the characters of the inhabitants also. I was lately near fifteen months amongst them, and travelled over a great part of the northern island, crossed the country from the east to the west side four times. I think one missionary alone would be very solitary and uncomfortable. If he was a single man he would labour under great page 564 temptations in such a society, and if he was married it would not be very comfortable for a single married woman to live amongst the natives; she would want the society of a female friend under the various trials and afflictions to which females are liable. As there are three great missionary societies in London—the C. M. Society, the London, and the Wesleyan Societies—it appears to me that it would be a wise and prudent measure for each society to select their separate fields for their missionaries to labour in. They are all large and extensive, and far beyond the united means the societies can command—New Zealand for the Church M. S., the Friendly Islands for the Wesleyan Society, and the Society Islands for the London M. S, These are fields so extensive that there is no prospect that they will, or can, be fully occupied for a long period, unless Divine Goodness should in a very wonderful manner bless the labours of the servants of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

From every account I have heard the Friendly Islands are exceedingly populous. Had a missionary named William Shelly lived, he would have now been there. He was originally sent out by the London Missionary Society, and resided three years at the Friendly Islands, but was compelled to retire to Port Jackson from the wars breaking out. It was his full intention to have returned had he lived, but he died at Parramatta. In order to secure the comfort and safety of the missionaries, I think the body of those who are sent out should in the first instance be sent there; and some of the chiefs or their sons brought back to Port Jackson, and remain for a time as hostages for the safety of the missionaries. A regular communication should at the same time be established between the Friendly Islands and N. S. Wales. This will have the best effect upon the natives, and cause them to be attentive and kind to the missionaries. This communication cannot be maintained without very considerable expense, as you may learn from the C. M. Society and the London M. S., who are well acquainted with this part of the subject. Neither can your Society depend upon the ship owners at Port Jackson. These things I feel it my duty to point out to you, and beg to refer you to the Revd. Josh. Pratt and George Brender for further information. The missionaries could have done nothing at N. Zealand if the Active had not kept up a regular communication with the missionaries. The masters and crews of whalers are generally so bad that they would have done great prejudice to the mission there by their misconduct to the natives. When the natives came over to N. S. Wales in the Active, where they were kindly treated, and after their arrival here they met with attentions they did not expect, these circumstances gave them a better opinion of our page 565 national character than what they had formed from their intercourse with the whalers and other vessels. It is the object of the masters of ships to get their supplies for little or nothing if they can, and they will often take what they want by force when under no apprehension of danger from the natives. The Europeans are more to be dreaded than the savage inhabitants: they violate the wives and daughters of the chiefs, and commit every crime in these islands, when they come there.

If the Christian world would maintain a vessel as a missionary ship in these seas the greatest benefit would arrive from such a measure to the numerous inhabitants on the different islands scattered over the Southern Ocean. They must and will become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. I do not apprehend the support of such would be any very great sum, allowing her returns to go towards her expenses. Such a vessel, under proper regulation, might probably pay her own expenses, as the way is now so completely opened. Admitting that there should be a deficiency of £500 or even 700 per annum, this would not be very much for the three missionary societies to pay if they were united in this single object, and their united bodies would give great political weight and influence in their favour should their cause ever want the aid of the British Government to protect it. I give you my sentiments very freely upon this subject. Should any useful hint be given by them I shall be glad, and if they should be considered of no importance no harm will be done.

I have formed my opinions upon long and painful experience; but yet they may not be correct; others may see objections to them which do not occur to me. I shall at all times rejoice when any thing can be done for the spread of the Gospel amongst the heathen nations. I perhaps may, when time will permit, give some little account of the natives in the different islands, if my life is spared.

I had the honor to receive a letter from the Committee of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, but shall not be able to acknowledge the receipt to them by this conveyance, as I am much pressed for time.

I have, &c.,

Samuel Marsden.

Joseph Butterworth, Esqr., M.P.