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Letter from Samuel Marsden to Josiah Pratt, April 24th, 1820

Extract from Revd. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Pratt,London. (“Historical Records.”)
April 24th, 1820.

Mr. K. (Kendall) left his wife and eight children wholly at the mercy of the natives…….Some individuals must think of and provide food for his family. I believe myself and Mr. Butler must take this trouble, or they will not be provided for……

After a long comment upon the missionaries trading privately with the natives, he continues:

I did suspend Mr.—— as stated in a former letter. The Rev. John Butler saw this evil in the same light I did, and also Messrs. F. Hall and Kemp.

During my stay in New Zealand, I experienced much distress from the misconduct of those employed in the Mission. I hoped mutual friendship was restored amongst them in a certain degree when I left them in November; at the same time I was afraid the Rev. John Butler would not be able to maintain his authority, and to carry on the Mission with comfort to himself……

On my arrival in February, I found the Europeans in great confusion, and the tares were sprung up again within the wheat. The settlers had fallen into their old barter with the ships and natives for muskets and powder. Mr. Butler, either for want of authority or from fear of persuasion (suggest want of food !) had been prevailed upon to pollute his hands with the same traffic, not on his private account, but to procure animal food for the support of the settlement.

This trial I was not prepared to meet. I called a meeting again, stated my abhorrence of this traffic; Mr. Butler condemned it as much as I did. They contended that without muskets or powder the natives would not sell their pigs, that they could not get a log of timber, nor potatoes or any article they wanted to purchase. I did not credit all they said (No! he had just come from the best of living in Sydney) but told them I should be here for some time, and then I should be judge.… If I found that they could not get animal food without muskets and powder I would send them salt meat from Port Jackson till the matter was submitted to the Committee at Home. Mr. Butler was much distressed; told me he could not govern the Europeans, and if I had not page 87 come, he should have returned to Port Jackson by the first opportunity …. Mr. Butler wants experience—he has had men under him, but not missionaries, who have no idea of subordination. I think the “Dromedary” will remain long enough for me to prove that they can get all the native productions without muskets or powder; I hope I shall establish Mr. Butler on a more comfortable foundation than he was before. I know Mr.—— will plead for this barter very strongly, and had he remained, Mr. Butler would have found more difficulty in abolishing it than he will at present…….They have suffered a little inconvenience, a few privations while residing among the heathens, but some of them must, in the common course of things, have suffered more had they lived in England, and had their families to maintain…….

I am, etc.


Rev. J. Pratt.