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Letter from Samuel Marsden to John Gare Butler, January 13th, 1824

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. John Butler.
January 13th, 1824.

Revd. Sir,

Previous to my leaving New Zealand, and ever since, I have been greatly enbarassed in my own mind to know what to do in your case. page 335 The unhappy differences between you and Mr. Kendall, united with other causes, rendered your removal from New Zealand no longer a matter of choice, but of necessity. After you had been accused of inebriety on board the “Dragon,” and I had received the opinion of your colleagues upon that charge, my embarrassment was increased. Tho' I do not think you are addicted to that sin, yet I do think that in moments of great vexation and passion, you are liable to fall into it.

From the state of mind you were in on that day when you left Kidee Kidde for the Tees, it has ever been impressed upon my mind that you were overcome, whether you drank little or much.

(Butler had told Marsden that he was tired of such falsehoods being propagated and would leave the Mission and go Home.)

From maturely considering all that occurred in New Zealand, I thought it would be more for your interest and honour, and for the interests of the Mission, for you quietly to retire to Europe, and stated this to you both verbally and by letter. I have repeatedly mentioned the subject since our arrival in New South Wales. You always seemed unwilling to return to England, at present. I told you a few days ago that my responsibility was great, and that if we could not come to some final determination relative to your return, I should take the opinion of Mr. Justice Field and some of his colleagues, when you might attend our meeting and hear what their sentiments were.

On Saturday evening, the 10th inst., I received despatches from the secretary of the C.M. Society, the Rev. J. Pratt,which supercedes the necessity of my calling a meeting, as the only question I had to submit to them was relative to your return to England. From the instructions I have received, I shall not feel myself authorised to furnish you with a passage home until I hear from the parent Committee again. The only question now to be decided is, what am I to do in the meantime? Had I suspended you from all connection with the Society, at the time I received the opinion of your colleagues on the charge against you for inebriety, I should have been fully justified in doing so, and the Society may now disapprove of my conduct in not having done this. However, this was a measure too painful for me to adopt at that time. I also thought it was more probable that you would never return again to New Zealand, and that if you quietly retired to England, the members of the parent Committee, with their united wisdom, and you might settle your concerns better than I could do, and bring less discredit upon the Mission, and be less injurious to yourself. As the parent Committee does not authorize me to furnish you with a passage to England, I am brought to the same difficult and painful point again, viz., either to suspend you from all official connection with the Society until your case is submitted to the consideration of the Committee, or to continue you in the service of the Mission. As I cannot send you home, I have only one line of conduct to adopt, under the circumstances you are placed, in order to do impartial justice (?) to save the credit of the Society and myself from any unjust censure, and that is to suspend you from the service of the Society as a missionary belonging to it, and therefore you must consider yourself suspended from this time. At the same time, until the whole case is submitted to the parent Committee, and answers received, I will employ you as I would any other individual on my own responsibility, in instructing the New Zealanders who are now at Parramatta, or may hereafter come. If you approve page 336 of my proposition, it must be under the express condition that you put yourself wholly under my direction, and devote your attention to the improvement of the New Zealanders, and live in a retired manner. I shall rejoice if you can retrace your steps, if you can subdue your stubborn and unruly temper. Pride, passion, jealousy, and a worldly spirit have been the bane of the Mission. If these can be put off, and the missionaries become clothed with humility, God will bless their labours. Let your past experience make you more cautious, more watchful, and more lowly.

If you can only learn of Jesus the lesson which He hath taught His followers, viz., to be meek and lowly in heart, you may still redeem your missionary character, and be useful in the great cause, and happy in your own soul; but you never can in any other way. I must now leave what I have said to your consideration, and judge for yourself what you ought to do.

I am, Rev. Sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,