Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Letter from John Gare Butler to Josiah Pratt, October 10th, 1821

To the Rev. Josiah Pratt,
C.M.S., London Copied and sent by the “Cumberland,” Capt. Brend, Nov., 1821. page 177 KIDDEE KIDDEE,
October 10th, 1821.

Revd. and Dear Sir,

I have to acknowledge receipt of your kind and affectionate letter dated London, Nov. 27th, 1820, also of a general letter to the missionaries and settlers, and the instructions of the Committee relative to the future proceedings of the missionaries, schoolmasters, and settlers, etc., etc. But your letter of the 20th July, I have not received. The instructions, as you will observe, were read, and thankfully accepted at the quarterly meeting, and from my heart I hope they may be acted upon faithfully and truly, by every servant of the Society.

However, I can speak for one, that is myself, that it shall, and not only will be my duty, but my study and desire to fulfil and adhere to all instructions given by the Society.

There is one thing in the instructions which I think deserves particular notice, that is, the request of a report in writing from each missionary, schoolmaster, etc., etc., to be signed and delivered at quarterly meetings; and also the indents of articles wanted, stating specifically the objects for which they are designed; this will preclude the necessity of their being opened at Port Jackson, which is considered by all missionaries as a great evil. It will also encourage everyone to go on with his particular department, while it calls upon him to give an answer of his work.

For my own part, I should wish all indents to pass through Mr. Marsden's hands, or any other gentleman the Society may think fit to appoint. But I do not think any individual at Port Jackson can be a competent judge of all and every article that may be wanted in New Zealand. All things that are wanted from Port Jackson, Mr. Marsden will be able to judge of the expediency, according to the indent, and objects for which they are designed. But not so for articles wanted from England. In this land of uncertainty and difficulty, the missionary who is on the spot is the only man who is able to give any tolerable idea of what may be wanted, in order to carry on the great work which he has undertaken. If he be a faithful man, he will not put the Society to a farthing expense beyond what is absolutely necessary.

If he be an unfaithful servant, the sooner he is got rid of the better, and as every man likes to feel his station, so everyone wishes to be entrusted with such things as may enable him to carry on his particular branch of doing good to the poor benighted heathen. On this account I think the Society have at length hit upon a plan which will meet the wishes of every one of the servants, while it will lay the strongest obligation on everyone to do his duty.

The New Zealand Mission is peculiar from any other of the Society's missions. In short, New Zealand is covered over with fern, and weeds, and brush, and woods, and the natives are covered with lice and filth to the last degree, and they are a proud, savage, and obstinate, and cruel race of cannibals withal. Every missionary has a great deal of heavy labour to perform, and many provocations to undergo, before he does anything according to the religious world.

Mr. Marsden sent down a letter to New Zealand, (which is enclosed), proposing to pay everyone a specific sum annually for his services. This I consider as another good thing, someone or other has at all page 178 times felt himself more or less injured by the issuing of rations; but on the present plan everyone will have to procure for himself; and this will cause some to look out a little sharper than they have heretofore. Everyone, as you will see, gave in his statement at the quarterly meeting what he considered a sufficient annual salary.

I have drawn a bill on you, Sir, for £200, for one year's salary, being the same as Mr. Kendall receives, and payable to Mr. Broughton, which you will have the goodness to honour and pay when it becomes due.

I handed the public letter to all the brethren, and read it at the quarterly meeting.

All regulations that have been sent by the Society have been calculated to promote harmony, peace, and goodwill if they had been strictly adhered to, but we know nothing of humility, everyone is jealous lest another should obtain a fish-hook more than himself, or that another should have a leaf in the wreath that adorns his brow, more than themselves, however hard he may have laboured to obtain it. With respect to muskets and powder, I must be plain in saying that I do not think they will cease being issued, altho' it may not be done by choice, yet I am persuaded that it will be done; and further, I do consider that the repairing of old muskets is equal to the selling of new ones, inasmuch as a musket which is out of repair is of no use. I have never heard of any ships touching on this coast bartering or introducing spirituous liquors among the natives. I believe, generally speaking, they have none to spare, and are often very short.

I am very happy to see that the Society have given agriculture a consideration, inasmuch as I am persuaded that at some future day it will be the grand means of carrying on great and blessed work in which we are engaged. In a land like this that produces nothing of itself, there must, of necessity, be everything to do, in order to provide the comforts and necessaries of life, and these cannot be obtained in any other way.

The horses are doing well, and the cattle are doing well at this time. I should like to know whether the horses and cattle are Mr. Marsden's or the Society's; however I have done all in my power to preserve them. I have had a lad continually minding them for many months. You mention a supply of all kinds of stores as being forwarded, and desire the utmost economy, care, and prudence in the expenditure thereof.: All that I can say on this part of the business, that Mr. Marsden sent a quantity of stores down to N.Z. by Mr. Kendall, to his care, for the use of the settlement at R. Hoo, and also a quantity for Kiddee Kiddee, directed to Mr. F. Hall. I assisted all in my power to get the same to Kiddee Kiddee, and they are all placed at the disposal of Mr. F. Hall.

Whatever I lay our for timber, sawing, food, or in any other way whatever, yea even a fish-hook, I cannot obtain without giving a written order for it. You may think this astonishing, but I will show you as much as I know of the cause of this edict ere I close this letter.

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was placed in the most difficult position by Mr. Marsden. He framed rules and regulations at Port Jackson, which we brought with us, and which were read and adopted at the first committee. But there was not a single person who did not in a very short time manifest a determination not to follow or be led by them.

page 179

The first thing to be done was to look out for a spot to settle, and Mr. Marsden proposed Kiddee Kiddee, which we readily agreed to. On this spot the fern was growing seven feet high. Now, if you consider that the same must be cleared, and all the timber for building to be fetched from twenty-five to thirty miles, you must be convinced that somebody must do a great deal of work. Now it fell to my lot to look after it, according to Mr. Marsden's request. We were obliged to build a hut before we could do anything else. Mr. F. Hall being chosen secretary and storekeeper, he did not go very often out of his department. Mr. Kemp went to work at his trade in Mr. Kendall's shop, and the carpenters to preparing some stuff that was already sawn.

Mr. Marsden ordered me to request Messrs Gordon and Carlisle to go with me into the wood, to cut trees for the punt, and to burn charcoal for the blacksmith. This they refused to do, saying that they did not come to New Zealand for any such purpose, neither to work or labour themselves, but only to teach the natives, but at that time we were hard set to get natives, as I objected to pay them in powder.

Mr. King said he could not, nor would he perform such work and labour, and Mr. Kendall pleaded incapability, and pleaded to be excused.

Mr. Marsden also ordered me to have a bell rung in the morning and at dinner time, in order to call all hands to work; this gave great offence to all the missionaries, and rendered me odious in their sight, saying they were not convicts.

However, I was determined to follow Mr. Marsden's plan of forwarding the work as far as possible.

I next applied to Mr. Marsden for more strength, and he engaged Thos. Hansen and James Boyle, the saltmaker, to assist me.

The “Active” came, and brought down more cattle, and Mr. Marsden hired a third man, named Richard Russell.

The punt being finished, we took a quantity of sawn stuff for Kiddee Kiddee, for the carpenters to build a blacksmith's shop and storehouse.

I kept working the punt backwards and forwards for some months, generally making one of the crew myself, and sometimes out on the water all night.

I set on as many natives to fetch timber, clear the ground, as possible, etc., etc.

Mr. Wm. Hall at this time did what he could to forward the work, and we soon got the pair of sawyers going at Kidee.

Toward the end of the month of December, the present store was covered in, and we determined to go to our station. Mr. Hall and Mr. Kemp choosed to have the house which is intended for a blacksmith's shop, and myself and all the carpenters turned into the store, altho' it had no ground or upper floor.

The next thing was to build a dwelling house for someone. Mr. Kemp said he thought Mr. Hall's house ought to be built first, as Mr. Marsden had not brought down a single nail, which was the case, for any purpose, and Mr. F. Hall had them of his own.

I thought I had as fair a claim as anyone for a house, but I did not object, and Messrs. Hall and Kemp's house was begun.

page 180

On 27th February, H.M.S. “Dromedary” came into the harbour, having on board the Revd. Samuel Marsden.

The first thing Mr. Marsden did for me was to take away Mr. Wm. Hall to act as interpreter for them, and to assist in procuring timber, and from that day to the present moment, Mr. Wm. Hall has done but very little at Kiddee Kiddee.

Now this was not very pleasant to me to see Mr. Hall walking the “Dromedary's” deck as a gentleman, and myself left with the burden of the work, and while he was receiving many things for his services, I was working hard for the Society, and living almost out of doors.

Instead, therefore, of having nothing to do but a general superintendence, I have been actually engaged in the most slavish part of the building department up to the present day. Nor was I at all better in the victualling department, for the old servants of the Society could not bear the thought of being rationed. They immediately turned sulky, and would render me no assistance in procuring supplies. I was therefore compelled to buy the hogs, etc., potatoes for both settlements, as well as for all natives employed, and was continually meeting with insult and ill-will. Mr. F. Hall served other meat to the Europeans, but then it was always prepared ready for him.

I spoke of this to Mr. Marsden, and he said that Mr. Hall had nothing to do with procuring supplies for the stores. I had great trouble to procure pork and potatoes, and especially as muskets and powder were ordered to be stopped. My little shed also, which I had built to cook in, was more like a butcher's shop, with meat about and filth, than anything else, and, to say the least, it rendered Mrs. Butler wretched, while other women were sitting at home in comfortable houses, with little to do, and she was obliged to become slave for the whole, and moreover, I have frequently had the meat sent back, saying it was not good, but it is true and certain it was always the best I could get. At other times I have been charged with keeping the best joints for my own use; this is very false, for we have ever gone without fresh meat, in order to serve the settlement. We had a survey on meat sent back, by Mr. Marsden, who declared it to be as good as need be.

I have often thought of the words of Moses, “Why chide ye me; Lord, what have I done unto this people, they be almost ready to stone me?”

At length I told Mr. Marsden that something must be done, as it was impossible to go on after that fashion; it was too much both for Mrs. Butler and myself. It was then proposed for everyone to take as much trade as was sufficient to purchase pork and potatoes, and let each provide for himself. This plan eased the burden from my shoulders, and gave general satisfaction.

Mrs. Butler and myself have had many a heartache on account of the victualling department.

With respect to the agriculture department, when Mr. Marsden came down in the “Dromedary,” he wrote me a letter pressing upon me the necessity of forwarding this branch with all my might. This I was already doing, for I had at that time twelve natives clearing and breaking up land for wheat. But the wheat which Mr. Marsden brought down to New Zealand was not good; however, I reaped about forty bushels of oats and twelve bushels of barley.

page 181

Things passed on in this way until October 22nd, 1820.

When Mr. Marsden came from Wangahroah, with Mr. Fairfoul, surgeon of the “Dromedary,” I made complaint to him that the carpenters had been saucy to me, and Mr. Wm. Hall being continually at the “Dromedary” and myself left alone to carry on all the work, I was completely set fast. Mr. Marsden did not do as I expected he would—enter into my feelings, and devise some means of redress—but said, you must do this, and order that man to do so and so, and another to do so and so. I said, “Sir, I am quite tired of having everything thrown on my hands, and the permanent servants of the Society will not be commanded by me; yea, and others are very insolent, (this is certainly true), for emaneipated conviets even told Mrs. Butler to her face she ought to wash their clothes; and often they would come into the place and throw the victuals about, if it did not exactly please them.” I told Mr. Marsden I did not bring Mrs. Butler into New Zealand to cook and do for such blackguards.

Mr. Marsden appeared vexed at this, and went out and wrote me a letter, desiring that I should state to him what authority I wished to retain in the Mission. I was so much grieved that Mr. Marsden should put such a question to me, after labouring night and day while others were standing idle, I wrote him an answer immediately that I desired no authority at all, because I conceived that a Christian Minister has all he wants in his appointment to the sacred office, but I have never had any time to attend to my proper duties. For, instead of having only a few secular engagements, I have had nothing else neither have I up to the present date, and all I wanted was Mr. Marsden to arrange things so as to enable me to act a little more in character.

Mr Marsden then, without consulting me any further, sent for Mr. Wm Hall, and called a committee, and appointed Mr. F. Hall superintendent over something, I know not what; and Mr. Wm. Hall superintendent over the carpenters. This he was already, and therefore a useless distinction. What I complained of, his not attending to that department as he ought to do.

It is somewhat remarkable that, notwithstanding all this, I have had their natives to look after ever since, and most of the timber to get, and the shingles also, with the assistance of my son. I might have been without a house two years more in New Zealand. I have learned it is one thing to propose and appoint, and another to perform.

Mr. Marsden next put all the stores under the care of Mr. F. Hall. I never gave up, nor intended to give up looking after every part of the Society property; but Mr. Marsden thought proper to wrest them out of my hands, not for any improper use made of them for I have got more done than any other man with the same quantity of trade, and the reason is this—I have endeavoured at all times to set the natives an example by working with them myself. I do not say this to make myself better than another, but only to state the truth, which I cannot state in any other way.

Mr. Marsden at this committee gave orders for me to give documents for all things which I received out of the Society's store, and here I must observe that I am the only servant of the Society that has ever been compelled to do this; this I consider a hardship, but I have at all times complied with the request. I wish to come to the point at once. Have I been unfaithful? then let me return home with the shame page 182 that attends it. Have I been faithful? then I must be furnished with things to carry on my work, and entrusted with same, or else the Society will be pleased to pardon me if it goes undone.

I hope the Committee will receive my sincere and grateful thanks for their kind attention to my request of various article for which I made application. I hope I shall never grow insensible, or be backward to acknowledge all their kindness with unfeigned gratitude.

I received a good supply of many of the articles for the use of my family, from Mr. Hall, and very cheap indeed; altho' not charged by Mr. Marsden according to the invoice from London. I shall pay Mr. Marsden for them when I reach Port Jackson. Many things which we are in want of, Mr. Marsden did not send, as you will see per enclosed invoice, such as moulds, pins, needles, bobbins, tape, etc., etc.

I also received a church bible, prayer book, service of Communion plate, six bottles of wine for the Lord's Supper, register book, and several treatises on agriculture, also Fox's Book of Martyrs, and three annual registers, and several volumes of Christian Guardians. I received various grass seeds, but no clover seeds, and the grass seed had been opened at Port Jackson, and part of them taken out, and the seed I consider much injured thereby. I think all things wanted at N.Z. should be opened as little as possible at P.J. I have to acknowledge with thankfulness the receipt of the cupping machine; it was used the other day for the first time by Mr. F. Hall, or rather performed upon him. I am happy to find that you intend to send some implements of husbandry and seeds. They will be of the greatest utility, if the natives will permit us to remain at peace, without the sale of muskets and powder. But of this I am afraid. As to supplies for a school, I beg leave to say that I have not received anything, neither have I any organised school; at present there is no building erected for that purpose, nor any supplies for to maintain one, nor have I a house as yet to dwell in. Nevertheless, I have endeavoured to benefit the natives in every possible way. I have travelled among them as often as I could, and visited and conversed with them at every opportunity. Moreover, I have employed, victualled, and partially clothed, and instructed in farming, fencing, gardening, falling timber, towing timber, sawing, pulling boats, etc., fourteen natives on an average ever since I have been in New Zealand. At the same time I have administered to them all the mental instruction in my power, especially in the best things, even the best things of Christ. I have nine young men employed and victualled at this time, and Mrs. Butler has three young women who can wash well, do plain sewing, and almost any household work; they are also exceeding good hands in the garden. I have been (and am now) hard put to for food for them, as Mr. Marsden has not sent any rice for a long time. We grind wheat, and Mrs. B. makes dumplings for them to eat with their potatoes.

They have had no meat for a long time, I cannot get it; after harvest, I shall have plenty of wheat and barley, and then with potatoes I hope to do pretty well. I have seven acres of wheat, and six of barley and oats, growing at this time, all looking remarkably well. I sowed all the grain with my own hands, and had no assistance to work the land but my natives.

This is a greater quantity than is growing in both settlements besides. Also my garden, which contains 110 rods, is full of a variety of vegetables and young fruit trees, and an excellent bed of hops, containing fourteen hills. I have also at this time 158 rods of seven feet page 183 pale fencing standing around my little house, field, garden house and yard, and done almost and altogether by natives and myself and son. (Besides other general fencing and buildings). As also one potato house, thirty feet by ten. One new fowl-house, twenty-one by ten. One goat house, eight by ten. One new house for my working natives to live in, and for a small school for same, twenty-seven by ten. I should have been exceeding glad of some canvas to make hammocks for them to sleep in, and some blankets, but Mr. Marsden has kept all the canvas at Port Jackson. We are in great distress for canvas and rope, but Mr. Marsden, I understand, has not sent any to New Zealand.

I shall be exceeding happy to see a well-organised school at Kiddee Kiddee, and shall do all in my power towards accomplishing this grand object, but it will want continual support. It will be best to go on in a small scale at first. I shall be greatly distressed for European clothes before I can obtain a supply.

The Society, I observe, sent a great quantity of Welsh flannel, but only one hundred and fity-one yards came to New Zealand, and that Mr. Hall sold away among the missionaries, not one yard devoted to the poor natives.

As you say in your letter that you hope a school has been established at Kiddee Kiddee, I have given you, I may now say, as clear an account as I am able concerning this matter. I do wish it was better, but it is all that could have been done. I think I have had as good a school as ever in N.Z.

I feel very anxious about a plan for public worship, but how or when a church will be built, it is hard to say. However, I shall not rest until the top stone, as well as the foundation, is laid for this purpose.

As soon as my dwelling house is finished, I hope to have more time to learn the native language, and I humbly hope that the Lord will enable me to learn it, and to preach the glorious Gospel therein. I should be exceeding thankful for a small chest of medicines with salves and ointments by the first conveyance, and a good watch if you will be pleased to purchase one for me. I lost an excellent horizontal watch on the wharf at Sydney, the day I was shipping the goods for N.Z. We are in great want of threads, common tape, buttons, and moulds for natives.

As I often go round the neighbouring district, meeting the natives, and am almost compelled to distribute little things among them, on account of their extreme poverty and importunities, I should be very thankful if the Society would be pleased to pack up a few smaller things separately, for the purpose of distribution among them on such occasions—such as plane irons, knives, fish-hooks, combs and scissors, etc., and direct the same to me at New Zealand, and not to be opened at Port Jackson. The piece of red cloth sent for presents, Mr. Marsden cut up at P. Jackson, and he sent me only one yard and ten nails, which I have given to Rewah.

Whatever the Committee have to say to Mr. Kendall about parting with so many muskets, I hope and trust the Committee will be kind enough to let me know, and solemnly charge him not to let the natives up on me, by saying that I wrote about them, for all my property would be immediately stolen, and perhaps my life would scarcely atone for it.

page 184

They look upon me already as the only man who stops their free circulation. I should be very glad of the following articles: Two sets of copper-plate copy books, scales and weights, one gallon, one quart measure, and one set of corn measures. And now, my dear Sir, what more can I say? only this that it is my earnest prayer that God and Father of our Lord Jesus would of His boundless mercy remove every difficulty and bless our work of faith and labour of love until the glorious Gospel shines throughout these bemghted islands.

Mrs. B. has sent to Mrs. Pratt one mat which she begs her acceptance of. Mrs. B. has sent Mrs. Bickersteth one mat, which she begs her to accept. I have sent one mayree (a war instrument which I beg you to accept), and one to Mr. Bickersteth, which I hope he will be kind enough to receive. Curiosities are scarce with me, as I do not deal in muskets and powder. I have also sent one mat and one box to the Bishop of Gloucester, which you will be careful to forward immediately, as also one mat to Mr. Broughton, and one to Mr. Thos. Adams, Harrow Road, Paddington.

My heart is still full of matter, but for this time I must conclude lest I trouble you to read what is painful to write: wars and rumours of wars among the natives. God help you. Amen.

Accept of our love to yourself and family, Mr. Bickersteth and family, and all friends.


Sent by the “Cumberland,” Capt. Brind, Nov., 1821.