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Letter from John Gare Butler to Samuel Marsden, January 8th, 1822

To Rev. Samuel Marsden.
Ship “Westmorland,”
Sydney Cove,
Jany. 8th, 1822.

Rev. and Dear Sir,

I have hitherto endeavoured to consider you as a father and a friend, but the mysterious way in which you act, and your conduct toward me of late, leads me to draw conclusions of a very different nature.

I have learned that when you returned from New Zealand, you immediately began to speak evil of me and mine.

As a minister of the Church of God, and a Magistrate of the British Realm, to be charged with unfaithfulness or neglect of duty, either the one or the other (the very thought of which) appals my heart, and makes my blood run cold.

I have, however, one consolation, and that no man taketh from me, that with all diligence and sincerity I and mine have laboured to forward the objects of the Honourable Church Mission Society, and to promote the temporal and eternal happiness of the heathen among whom we dwell, and I am now ready and prepared to meet every charge, and to give unto all men, publicly, a full and satisfactory account of every day's work and slavery, both of myself and my wife, ever since we have been engaged in the service of the Society. The Society will, I trust, ere long be in full possession of these facts, and there are living witnesses who have seen with their eyes, and will come forward and bear testimony to these truths.

But since you have taken upon you to traduce my character without any just cause, you must therefore stand prepared to justify your own. Some things have taken place lately which I think not altogether right. There are many things which I could mention, but I shall confine myself to a few. You know, Sir, that some time ago I made application to the Society for goods as a favour, in order to get them as cheap as possible, and I have a letter from Mr. Pratt saying they were sent. These things have arrived, and the most of them you have sold at Port Jackson, and those you sent to New Zealand you did not consign to me, but to another, and charged a higher price for them than was originally done by the Society. Do the Society indeed wish you, after granting a favour, to put a tax upon it? Is it worthy of their name and character, or that of the Christian world to do this? Have you not endeavoured to defraud me of my legal rights (for I cannot call it less) by wishing to charge me with £55 of travelling expenses? altho' I was not receiving any salary at the time, and for which I signed my name two and a half years ago, and what moneys, I have no doubt, have been paid by the Society long since.

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Did not other moneys stand against me which ought not? Have you not acted quite as bad by refusing to honour a just bill which I paid for timber on account of the Society? Did you refuse to pay it on account of the timber being bought with powder? I think not. Did you not pay Mr. Kendall for this timber bought with powder in kind? Did you not pay Mr. Wiliam Hall for his timber purchased in the same way? Further, did you not yourself buy four large casks of powder, and put them into the common stock or store? Did you not pay away a large teakettle full of powder to Shunghee (Hongi), and half a gallon to Rewah for land? Did you not endeavour to conceal this act, by not entering it in the deeds?

Did you not purchase of Mr. Wm. Hall, two muskets and twenty-six pounds of powder, and pay him also for fifty-six pounds of powder, most of which Mr. Hall paid for sawing done for the Society? Did you not purchase of Wyeduah (Wairua) a lot of potatoes and flax on the beach at Ranghee Hoo with a musket? Did you not afterwards send down fifty-one bayonets at one time, seventeen of which Mr. King received as a ration?

Has not the “Active's” cargo been bought with these forbidden things? and have you not received it, knowing it to be bought with muskets and powder, and have you not replaced them? Did you not at one time employ Mr. Smith to purchase six muskets, to put on board the “Active,” to trade with the natives?

Did you not say to me in New Zealand with your own mouth, that a gentleman of one of the universities had applied to you for a native head? Did you not signify to me your intention to procure a skull without hair?

Did you not employ Mr. Wm. Hall to go to the village at Ranghee Hoo to see if he could obtain such a thing?

(Did he not also purchase one from Pomare, for an axe in 1814? Bretts' N.Z.)

Did you not receive a native head from Jacky, and give him an axe? I am sure I saw him with one, and he afterwards assured me that he had given it to you, and that you had given him an axe, which he showed me. I believe these things can very easily be proved.

Have you not charged my son for £19/16/0 for victuals, after agreeing with me for forty pounds per annum and his food?

Have you not sold the supplies which were sent out to clothe the wretched New Zealanders? You say for want of an invoice you have done this; granted, but do the Society, or the Christian world expect to be repaid by the wretched and distressed heathen? Have you not sold to the crew of the “Active” the slops intended to clothe the native servants? yea, have you not even sent the Society's slops to Van Dieman's Land, to be bartered away for provisions for the “Active's” crew, instead of sending them to New Zealand in order to minister comfort to the distressed?

My very heart aches while I put these important questions; may your conscience return an answer as in the sight of a heart searching God. When these things are fairly represent to the Christian world will the world altogether justify you fully?

I have eight men and three women at work for the Society, and who will expect a new suit of clothes each on my return, according to page 195 my promise. Am I to purchase them out of my own little pittance, or must I forfeit my word, and be annoyed by the natives calling me a deceiver?

When I engaged with the Society, did I say to the Society, “Put me into one of the priest's offices that I may eat a piece of bread?”

Now, Sir, I do feel it an imperative duty as the clergman and head of the settlement, to request that you will furnish me with everything necessary for establishing a school at Kidec Kidec (Keri Keri), as far as the Society have granted you the means.

I have already informed you that three families of chiefs have applied to me to be taken in.

I must also request some trade for the purpose of carrying on agriculture for the benefit of the Mission, and of administrative comfort to the natives in general.

If you deny my request, I shall merely call at New Zealand, and take my family on board the “Westmorland,” and proceed to England. But should you be inclined to favour it, I shall be happy to meet you and consult with you, and point out as far as I am able what those necessaries are. At the same time, I am willing to be guided by those circumstances, and to act upon those principles, as may be most likely to forward the great and blessed work in which we are engaged.

With my earnest prayer that the calumny you have endeavoured to cast upon me may be returned in the richest blessings of heaven upon you and yours,

I remain in the hands of the Gospel,
Your affectionate brother,