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Historical Records of New Zealand

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Pratt

Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Pratt.

Parramatta, June 4th, 1824

Dear Sir,—

In reply to your request for my opinion relative to the formation of a colony by Col. Nicholls in New Zealand, there will be some difficulties to meet, according to my judgment, of a serious nature. The greatest obstacle will be the government of the Europeans. By what authority can they be kept in subordination there? If the Europeans commit any act of violence, such as violating the wives of the natives, striking the natives, taking any of their property by force, fireing upon them with muskets, if only with powder, or any other wanton act, such conduct might prove fatal to the whole of the Europeans. If a body of good men were to sit down as colonists, at the River Thames, or perhaps more to the southward, they would prove a great blessing to the island. I am at a loss to know what kind of effective government they can have in New Zealand. They cannot establish a colony there without penal and civil laws. Crimes will be committed both by the Europeans and the natives, page 628 and if these crimes cannot be punished the colony would be soon overturned. As a missionary alone I could live in great safety, but a colony would not be safe unless established under some regular form of government. From the errors and misconduct of some in the mission, I have often been astonished that the missionaries have not been murdered. The natives have shewn great forbearance on many occasions, and if a few missionaries cannot be kept in subjection without a Government, it will be difficult to manage a greater number of different characters. At the mouth of the fresh water of the River Thames, about 20 miles perhaps from the sea, there is a very fine situation for a colony—could be easily fortified, and would be a very commanding post. I have little doubt but the ground might be purchased. The New Zealanders themselves are very sensible of the want of a protecting Government, and would rejoice if anything could be done to prevent the strong from crushing the weak. The New Zealanders want a head. I had many conversations with the chiefs on this subject when I was in the island last year. They told me no chief would be willing to give up his authority to another, and they could not agree amongst themself to nominate any one chief as king. I am afraid this desirable object will never be effected by persuasive means. If it is done, it most probably will be done by force. Shunghee has conquered many tribes, to the extent of more than two hundred miles, but he has no means of retaining his conquests. Shunghee was wont to tell me the conquered tribes would behave very well while he was in their districts, but when he left them they respected him no longer. He had not the means of leaving a force to keep them in subjection. If the chiefs could be brought to act together, under some regular Government, much might be done. They would sometimes say, if King George would send them a king they would attend to him. Shunghee had impressed the natives with a very great idea of the power of King George—he used to tell the chiefs that if King George was to go to war with them there would be only one battle, and New Zealand would be conquered. Many of the chiefs are very proud men, and afraid of parting with any of their consequence. The late Act of Parliament, authorizing the Courts of justice in N. S. Wales to punish offences committed in New Zealand, would be favourable to the establishment of a colony, as the natives would know that they would obtain protection from the Government here. If an effective Government can be established in New Zealand to punish crime, a colony may be established, and benefit the natives, but if an effective Government cannot be established, neither can a colony, in my judgment, without much danger. Before any colony is attempted, the island page 629 should be more surveyed. We know little of it yet, and there may be many situations more suitable for a colony than any we have seen. As I am wholly ignorant of the views of Lieut.-Col. N., and upon what plan he proposes to form his colony, I cannot say more upon the subject. It had been communicated to me that Lieut.-Col. N. had such an intention before I received your letter, but nothing more stated.

I remain, &c.,

Samuel Marsden

Revd. J. Pratt.