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The Old Whaling Days

Secretary of state to governor

Secretary of state to governor.

Downing Street
31st Jany. 1832


I have received General Darling's Despatch of the 13th of April last, with its various enclosures, respecting the page 407 proceedings of the Master of the Brig Elizabeth with several others of His Majesty's subjects, at the Islands of New Zealand.

It is impossible to read, without shame and indignation, the details which these documents disclose. The unfortunate natives of New Zealand, unless some decisive measures of prevention be adopted, will, I fear, be shortly added to the number of those barbarous tribes, who, in different parts of the Globe, have fallen a sacrifice to their intercourse with civilised men, who bear and disgrace the name of Christians. When, for mercenary purposes, the native of Europe, minister to the passions by which the savages are inflamed against each other, and introduce them to the knowledge of depraved acts and licentious gratifications of the most debased inhabitants of our great cities, the inevitable consequence is, a rapid decline of population preceded by every variety of suffering. Considering what is the character of a large part of the population of New South Wales and Van Diemens Land; what opportunities of settling themselves in New Zealand are afforded them by the extensive intercourse which has recently been established, adverting also to the conduct which has been pursued in these Islands by the Masters and crews of British vessels… I cannot contemplate the too probable results without the deepest anxiety. There can be no more sacred duty than that of using every possible method to rescue the natives of the extensive islands from the further evils which impend over them, and to deliver our own country from the disgrace and crime of having either occasioned or tolerated such enormities.

With these views I need scarcely say that the energy with which General Darling appears to have acted, both for the punishment and prevention of these atrocities, merits my warmest acknowledges…..

It is with much regret that I find that the efforts of General Darling to bring to justice the Master and crew of the brig Elizabeth, were likely to prove unsuccessful. page 408 The opinion given by Mr. Moore, the Crown Solicitor, is not very intelligible. I conjecture his meaning to have been that the New Zealand Tribes, having been engaged in what must be regarded as legitimate warfare, according to the usages of their own country, could not, with justice or propriety, be charged with murder, and, therefore, that the Master and crew could not be charged as accessories to murder, because the guilt of the principal is essential to the guilt of the accessory. Supposing this reason to be just, still the Master and his crew might have been prosecuted under the Foreign Enlistment Act. But, if I rightly understand the case, they were in fact prosecuted for murder. Yet in his letter of the 12th of April Mr Moore states that “he admitted Captain Stewart to bail, to appear before the Supreme Court when called upon for trial.” The statement is quite inexplicable. I can neither understand how the prosecutor himself should assume to act as a magistrate by admitting a prisoner to bail, nor why a prisoner charged with such an offence should have been admitted to bail by any authority whatever. I regret to state that the whole proceeding for the conviction of the offenders appears to me to have been conducted in an inefficient and discreditable manner and you will have the goodness to institute the necessary enquiries to ascertain upon whom the censure justly falls, if, as there is too much reason to apprehend, the prosecution shall prove unsuccessful.

I am &c