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Copy of a letter sent to the Mission House, January 14th, 1825

Copy of a letter sent to the Mission House, January 14th, 1825.

To Danl. Coates, Esq.,

My Dear Sir,

I beg to apologise for not attending to your request sooner. I have been particularly busy for several days past in looking after my things. You desired that I would state in writing the reason of my leaving Parramatta, and also to name the little boy whom we redeemed from destruction, and whom we have brought over with us, and also to state my present views as to my future proceedings.

But before I say a word on either of these points, I cannot help reflecting on all that has passed during my residence in New Zealand.

The state in which I found the Mission on my arrival; the manner in which the missionaries were living, and bartering and trading, instead of doing good to the poor natives; the almost insurmountable difficulties of putting an end to this wicked and long-established practice; the opposition I had to encounter in various ways, both from the natives and Europeans.

When I consider the toils, pains, sufferings, labours, privations, etc., which my dear wife and myself had undergone to promote the objects of the Society, and the everlasting happiness of the heathen, and when I further consider what characters some of the present instruments are, and what the conduct of others has been, ever since they have been connected with the Society, I sometimes think we have been treated unkindly; not from any member of the Committee at home, for from them I have received every attention; but from their agent abroad.

I do sincerely hope and pray that all past differences may be buried in oblivion; may we learn to forgive each other as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.

If I have failed in doing all that the Committee have expected me to perform, or if I have offended in thought, word or deed, I earnestly crave forgiveness on the one hand, and on the other hand I beg permission to affirm that in singleness of heart and in perservering fidelity of action, both my wife and myself have done what we could.

With respect to the interesting little boy Frank, I hope the Society will immediately take him and place him in some school. Should the Lord spare his life, he may become an instrument of vast importance, under the divine blessing, to his countrymen in carrying home the glad tidings of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The epitome of this child's history lies in a few words. In the year 1821, Shungee (Hongi), and all the neighbouring tribes went to war at the River Thames, and cut off many of the people in the district to which this child belongs, among whom was the reputed father of this little boy. His mother was made a prisoner of war, and made a slave page 396 for ever. Her life was spared because she was a fine woman. The chief therefore took her to wife. The child was spared at the earnest entreaties of his mother, and brought the distance of two hundred miles, tied up in a silk handkerchief marked F.H. to Kidi Kidi (Keri Keri), and was presented to Mrs. Butler, who redeemed him for two axes, and this saved the little creature from immediate death. The natives had thirty miles further to go to their residence, and they had determined to kill the infant and eat him for supper, if the missionaries had refused to take him in.

With respect to the New Zealand Institution now erecting at Parramatta, I beg to be silent (May God Almighty prosper the undertaking), yet I am ready to answer any questions the Committee may think proper to put. The native boys which came to Port Jackson with us (all of them except one) had been under my care and living in my family a long time in New Zealand. The inhabitants of Parramatta were much pleased with them, they being so much superior to any who had heretofore come to Port Jackson, in cleanliness and manners, in civil and religious knowledge. Several of them went with me to Government House, and Sir Thos. Brisbane was much pleased with their appearance and behaviour.

During my stay among them I endeavoured to bring them forward to the utmost of my power. Several of them constantly lived with us, and sometimes the whole of them. The most promising youth, Shou (Tiu), was ill some time, and was at length given up. Doctor Cooper said it was of no use to give him any more medicine, for he would die of the complaint. But Mrs. Butler watched over him with unremitting attention night and day, and administered every little comfort she thought would do him good, and by divine blessing he was restored to perfect health. I went to work daily with the natives at the Institution, clearing the brushwood, stumping of trees, etc., etc.; we broke up sixty rods of ground, planted it with potatoes, cabbages, plants and carravances; the intention of which was to furnish the boys with vegetables, as soon as the building was tenable.

Mr. Marsden promised that I should have a man to fence, and garden, and plough, etc., and Mrs. Butler a woman to assist in cooking for the natives, but when I spoke to him about them, I found that he had altered his mind on this subject. Mr. Marsden also put this question to me, “Mr. Butler, do you not think you could learn the natives to manage a train of bullocks, that with your assistance and direction they might convey the stores from the quarry to the building?”

I answered, “Yes, sir, I think I can.” But after Mr. Marsden was gone, I thought thereupon and wept. My health also was much decayed by diarrhoea, a complaint which I am subject to in the hot weather; I felt therefore persuaded in my own mind that if I attempted to remain in so confined a situation I should not live long.

This and many other circumstances press upon me the necessity of leaving this field of action. I praise God to raise up a more able instrument in my stead. I desire to assure the Committee that the cause which they have in hand, lies nearer to my heart than any other object whatsoever, and happy indeed should I be if I might be enabled to pave only one little stone in the universal Temple of Messiah. The cause is the cause of God; your work, the work of the Lord, and rather than attempt to hurt or hinder or injure it, I would suffer my unworthy name and character to be buried under calumny, slander and darkness page 397 all the days of my life. I know “The time is short,” the judge standeth at the door, “The Lord will shortly make known the counsels of all hearts. Then shall everyone receive according to his works.”

As to my views of future usefulness, I beg to acquaint the Committee. [The foregoing letter was among Butler's papers, and incomplete; we are therefore again indebted to the “Hocken” Library, viz.:] that some of my friends advise me to obtain an interview with the Bishop of London, and endeavour to get a chaplainship in Van Dieman's Land.

I am quite sure there is great need of more means of grace. Up the country in N.S.W., I preached to an attentive congregation who had not heard a sermon for two years, [Where was Marsden, as this was in his district?] and I am told that in Van Dieman's Land the means are far less. It is my intention, therefore, in humble dependence on the Lord, to endeavour to accomplish this thing. If I succeed, well. If I do not succeed, well. I will wait the kind directing hand of my heavenly Father and say, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” But should I be successful, I shall ever feel it a pleasure to exert myself in behalf of the Society's object in that ever-increasing colony; and I do think that I might be able to promote their interests, or rather the cause of God, several ways.

I do entreat the Committee, therefore, to put me in the right way of obtaining the object of my wishes.

Praying that the divine blessing may rest upon and prosper all your undertakings.

I remain,
Your faithful and devoted servant,


P.S.—I shall feel very thankful if the Committee will settle my small accounts. But I am fearful I shall not have time to write them out, as I am ordered to the London dock by nine o'clock, and it is now past one in the morning, while I am finishing this hasty letter. Please to excuse this spontaneous scrawl, as I am fatigued and very poorly.