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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

Rapid Decrease of the Maori Population

Rapid Decrease of the Maori Population.

It would, in relation to the subject on which I intend to enter in this despatch, be an interesting and important question, did there exist means of bringing it to a satisfactory solution, how far, this depopulation of the country, which has at least been rapid in proportion to the increase of its intercourse with the whites, was originated by the latter and may justly be chargeable to them. My own opinion is that all the apparent causes which are in operation are quite inadequate to account for the rapid disappearance of the people.

The introduction of firearms is alleged as one cause, but there seems good reason to doubt whether their wars were less sanguinary before firearms were introduced. The use of intoxicating liquors and tobacco are less questionable evils and, though their direct influence cannot, I think, be stated as at all remarkable, they are, in all probability, the original causes of diseases with which their immediate connection is not apparent.

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Venereal diseases are another means of undermining the constitution of the multitudes who, in one shape or other, are subjected to them; and, besides these sources of disease and death, the abuse of the females who are sent by their masters or relations on board ships, and the murder of the fruits of this intercourse, which is believed by those likely to be best-informed to be of frequent occurrence, are undoubtedly powerful checks to increase, and ought to be largely allowed for in estimating the causes which are in operation for the depopulation of the country. But, on the other hand, it must not be lost sight of that the mortality has not been confined to those who have been the victims of violence, or who have been exposed to the effects of vices or diseases of foreign origin. Disease and death prevail even amongst those natives who, by their adherence to the Missionaries, have received only benefits from English connections; and even the very children who are reared under the care of Missionaries are swept off in a ratio which promises, at no very distant period, to leave the country destitute of a single aboriginal inhabitant.

The Natives are perfectly sensible of this decrease; and when they contrast their own condition with that of the English families,. amongst whom the marriages have been prolific in a very extraordinary degree of a most healthy progeny, they conclude that the God of the English is removing the aboriginal inhabitants to make room for them; and it appears to me that this impression has produced amongst them a very general recklessness and indifference to life.

I have, &c.,

James busby,
British Resident, New Zealand.