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Earliest New Zealand


With the cessation of this last journal, kept by Butler's daughter, our personal contact with this pioneer missionary of New Zealand ceases.

This land of our adoption has been endowed from the embryo of the days of Marsden to the day when it becomes a Dominion and fellow-partner in the Councils of Empire, with a type of settler of which any nation would be proud.

Our immense cities, gardens, every valuable adjunct of our civic progress, have been built upon the initial labours of our precursors. Do they receive the homage that is their due? To those who would erase honoured names from the scroll of our pioneers, the names attached to streets, towns, hills, valleys, etc., perpetuating in memory our veneration of prior association; to those who assert “tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis” as a pretext, and adopt the selfish theory of “Posterity! What has posterity done for us?” there is only one answer: “As you set the seal of precedent upon your action, so may posterity deal with you, and efface your link of effort from the chain of progression in the making of our history.”

In many an unknown grave in New Zealand, in many a neglected churchyard, lies dust, deep down; sanctified in a life of honest toil, integrity and perserverance. “E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.” Among these, the life-work of John Butler claims its comradeship.

In conclusion, may we query the correctness of the accusation against Butler, and Mr. Marsden's disinterestedness in the matter?

Butler resided in New Zealand, Mr. Marsden at Parramatta, N.S.W. Marsden himself writes, “Though I do not think you are addicted to that sin.” The testimony of his fellow-workers and colleagues is confirming as to sobriety. The Wesleyan missionaries, with whom he was in close touch, approve his conduct, acknowledge his assistance, and state the page break
PIPITEA POINT, WELLINGTON. From a painting by Capt. W. Mein Smith, in 1850.

PIPITEA POINT, WELLINGTON. From a painting by Capt. W. Mein Smith, in 1850.

page 430 injustice meted out to him. His character was clear before he came to New Zealand. His testimonials from 1825 to 1837 are all excellent; and lastly we have the statement of E. J. Wakefield: “The name of Butler was quite revered at Pitoone.”

Towards the end of 1840, Butler had completed his manuscript of the Maori language, which he had commenced when first in New Zealand.

He wrote to Colonel Wakefield, principal agent of the New Zealand Company.

June 24th, 1820.


Whereas the major part of the materials contained in the present number, and those which will succeed in this treatise, have heretofore undergone the examination and scrutiny of that profound scholar, Professor Lee, of the University of Cambridge, it may be concluded that the elements and principles of the New Zealand language are satisfactorily laid down on a good foundation.

An authority like this cannot fail (I imagine) to recommend a small work of this nature to the notice and perusal of colonists and others, who may be desirous to obtain a competent knowledge of the language, in order to convey their ideas and sentiments to the natives.

The work was called “Butler's Help and Guide to the New Zealand Language.”

Dedicated by permission, to Col. William Wakefield, principal agent for the New Zealand Land Company.

By their humble
And obedient servant,


Britannia, Port Nicholson, New Zealand, 1840.
Printed by Samuel Revans.

This treatise must still be in existence. Part of the rough draft is in the possession of the descendants, part was lent to a resident of Wellington, who, instead of returning it, re-lent it to the late Mr. Alex. Turnbull, and the whereabouts cannot be traced.

The notice of his death is terse, and is contained in the New Zealand Journal, published in London on Saturday, January 8th, 1842.

“It is our melancholy duty to record the death of the
“Rev. John Gare Butler, Native Guardian and Interpreter
“to the New Zealand Land Company, at twenty-five min-
“utes past two o'clock on the afternoon of Friday, the page 431 “18th June, 1841. The reverend gentleman suffered in-
“tensely during a period of ten weeks, and leaves a
“numerous circle of friends to lament his loss; he was in
“his 60th year.”

The mortal remains of John Butler lie in their sable shroud, the leviathans of the ocean pass above; may his immortal soul rest in peace and tranquillity until that Day when he, who carried the torch of enlightenment to the far-flung shores of a new Britain, who faced danger, disease and death in inculcating the tenets of his “calling” among a brave, fierce and warlike people, shall receive the meed of praise from his Master, Whom he endeavoured faithfully to serve.

He was buried on the Pitoone Beach on Gear Island, and the grave, with many others, was swept away to the sea by the River Hutt.

His widow, who shared his dangers and privations, is buried in the old churchyard, Lower Hutt; his daughter in St. John's, Trentham; and his only son, Samuel, on the bank of the Hokianga Harbour, where he was drowned in 1836, and buried by the Rev. N. Turner, a pioneer missionary.

We take the liberty of inserting, out of sequence, the following testimonial, which has just come to light:—

5-7-37. Mr. D. O. Gurney. “I have no hesitation in declaring that, during the time you were my curate at Aston Bottrell—a period I believe, of nearly eight years—the services were performed quite regularly, and to my complete satisfaction. Moreover, that I found you ready at all times to assist me in every way in your power. This you are at liberty to make use of where and when you like.”

It seems opportune to include herein, as an appendix, several letters (written by the husband of Hannah Butler prior to his marriage) which deal with the sailing of the first of the New Zealand Company's emigrant ships, and the initial stages of Wellington's foundation.