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Letter from Thomas Kendall to John Gare Butler, September 28th, 1822

Sept. 28th, 1822.

Mr. Chairman,

Revd. Sir,

I have already sent my answer to the Revd. Samuel Marsden's public letter, bearing date June 11th last, and while I desire to sit myself down in silence under the severe sentence of suspension and desertion as pronounced by him, as far as the missionary settlers here, and himself as agent of the Society are concerned, yet I must now entreat the committee of missionaries to suspend all further and future proceedings against me, except such as are not only Christian, but open and manly. I own with self-abasement and abhorrence that I am a sinner in the sight of God, and that I have been a very unworthy servant of the Society, but I may perhaps be allowed to suggest, without incurring the charge of vain boasting, that my last ten years of incessant toil in the service of the Society would, in my opinion, with feeling men, entitle me to a little consideration. I boast not when I remind you that at a time when everyone else believed it to be a desperate adventure, I was one of page 212 the first missionaries who ventured to embark with my family for New Zealand. I was one of the first missionaries who brought over with them the word of life and salvation; I was the first missionary who slept on shore among the natives; the first missionary who attempted to fix the native language, and to introduce into print the first rudiments of the Christian religion, and also the first missionary to introduce prayer in a language which the New Zealanders could understand.

I have made the New Zealand language my study both by day and night, in order that I might acquire as much knowledge of it as would enable me to be useful, and it is fully my desire and intention, should it be the divine will to restore my mind to a state of tranquillity, to do the poor deluded New Zealanders all the good I can. It is true I have have carried my measures of conciliation and social intercourse with the natives to a criminal excess, and I have not done those things which I ought to have done, but the doing wrong is not any rule why I should be prevented in future from doing right, and I mention my conviction with reverence, that I do think Almighty God has something still for me to do at New Zealand, or why should He have been so merciful to me? Whilst I record my numerous faults with grief and shame, I will account some of His mercies at least with praise and thanksgiving. It pleased God to spare my life when I was on my passage eight years ago from Port Jackson to Van Dieman's Land—a person was shooting at a mark behind which I was seated, and I removed just at the moment he proceeded to draw the trigger of his pistol. It was not on account of any righteousness of my own that I was then spared, but it was because the Lord was merciful to me. It pleased God to spare my life when I was on my first visit to the Bay of Islands, and in imminent danger of being drowned; when I was taken up out of the water, I was at my last gasp. If I had not then been taken up at that critical moment, I should have in all probability sunk to rise no more. The Lord was a second time merciful to me. It pleased God to spare my life when I was on my return from New Zealand to Port Jackson. I was quarrelling with the captain respecting some natives. He attempted to fire off his pistol at me twice; the piece missed fire; if he had succeeded in firing it off the third time at me, I must have perished, but he was providentially prevented by the chief officer. I own I erred exceedingly on that day, and the language I made use of neither became me as a man nor as a Christian, yet it pleased the Lord to spare me, and in the midst of deserved judgment to remember me in His mercy.

It pleased God to spare my life when I was fired at by Walter Hall; his pistol was pressed hard against my body, but the contents passed by my side. It was not for any righteousness of my own that I was then spared; it was because the Lord delighted in showing mercy.

It also pleased God to again spare my life when I was a few weeks ago in danger of being drowned in the River Hokianga. I desire accordingly to bless His holy Name for His continued kindness and preservation, and I assure you, Sir, I do not feel it. to be a trifling manifestation of His mercy that at the time when one of my colleagues was bearing the minutes of the committee to Port Jackson—in which my conduct was censured—minutes which were known to every missionary except myself and Mr. Cowell, and at a time when sentence of suspension and discontinuance of support for myself and large family were happily unknown to me, a perfect stranger should providentially page 213 come into the bay and put into my pocket, for services for which I should have charged nothing, the handsome gratuity of one hundred and fifty pounds. (Was this connected with Baron Du Thierry?) If my song is of judgment, it is also of mercy, and I desire humbly, heartily, and truly, to render unto the Lord the praise that is due to Him.

My Christian brethren, let us deal kindly to one another. With respect to my own case, if God is angry with me, I wish Him to be my judge, for I am sure He will do what is right, but let not man, nay, let not the right to smite me unfriendly, lest in doing they should, instead of serving God, oppose His wise and unswerving counsels.

Mr. Chairman, I wish you every temporal and spiritual blessing you may stand in need of, but I must candidly tell you I feel a little hurt at the measures you have taken on my account. I hope, Sir, that you have not forgotten that we have been sent here by the same congregations, and that we have the same common friend, who I am sure would do everything in his power to encourage us when doing well, and to comfort us when in distress. He knows we are fallen men, and liable to sin, but it would grieve him to hear that we are so much divided as we are.

I devoutedly pray that neither you nor your children may experience the same trials which have fallen to my lot since I resided in this country; you will then be free from any bitter heartaches which attend the person whom nature is permitted to buffet and make miserable.

I am, Reverend Sir,
Your obedient servant,


To Rev. John Butler,
Chairman of the Committee of Missionary Settlers
at New Zealand.