Historical Records of New Zealand
Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. E. Bickersteth
Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. E. Bickersteth.
Dear and Revd. Sir,—
As a vessel is on the point of sailing for England from hence, I take the liberty to write a few lines by her. I arrived in the Bay of Islands on the evening of the 8th inst., and am happy to say I found all the missionaries well, but we have had no tidings of Mr. and Mrs. C. Davis and Mrs. Hart. We are very apprehensive that some accident has happened to the vessel, unless she has been taken by some of the convicts, who might have secreted themselves on board. When I arrived at the Bay of Islands I found the missionaries in considerable agitation: the natives were up in arms against each other in great numbers. On the 6th inst. they had had a battle on the opposite beach, in which it appears 70 were killed or wounded. Their bodies were then lying on the beach. My arrival at this trying moment afforded the greatest relief to the missionaries, as they were in hopes I should have influence with the contending tribes to make peace between them. Messengers had been dispatched to different parts to their respective friends and allies, and it was expected that some thousands would be in the bay in a few days. Some of the chiefs immediately waited upon me, and requested I would interfere between them. Both parties were equally our friends, and I was well acquainted with the leading chiefs of both. I promised that I would, along with the Revd. Henry Williams, visit both their camps the following morning, and hear what each had to say. Accordingly, early on the 9th we proceeded to the camp of those who had obtained the victory. They received us with the greatest cordiality. We immediately entered upon the subject of our mission, and after a long discussion, which was maintained by the chiefs with much ardor and warmth, it was agreed that we should proceed to the camp of their enemies, and state to them the substance of what had taken place. Their camps were about 4 miles apart from each other. On our arrival we were received with much respect by the chiefs; and they were willing to hear any thing we had to advance. The Revd. H. Williams opened the business, and after many arguments it was determined that we should proceed, along with one of the principal chiefs, to the Island of Motoroa, about 5 miles off, where a large body of their friends were encamped, and take their sentiments, which we consented to do, and immediately set off for the island. When we arrived we found the beach covered with war-canoes, and natives prepared for action. We stopt some hours with this party. Many of the chiefs spoke with much force and dignity, but yielded to page 703 our wishes so far that we were authorised to proceed to their enemy’s camp and to make some friendly propositions to them. After these matters were arranged we returned home about 9 o’clock in the evening. The terms of peace are not yet finally settled. I have been negotiating for peace ever since my arrival, and I hope it will shortly be accomplished. I am not under much concern for the missionaries, as all parties are most friendly to them; but they have never had such a trial before. They have lived in much peace until now. I think when this difference is settled it will extend their influence far and wide. Many of the distant chiefs will see who and what they are, and what their object is.
The origin of this present war proceeds from the most infamous conduct of one of the masters of a whaler. The chiefs contended that, as the war did not originate with them, but with an European, the Europeans were answerable for all the consequences as a nation. They wished to know what satisfaction we would give them for the loss of their friends who had been killed. It was their right to demand satisfaction, and it was just that the Europeans should give it. It was not their own quarrel. I replied, all that I could do was to write to England to prevent the return of the master to New Zealand again. They requested I would not do this. They wished to get him into their possession, which they would do should he return, and they would take satisfaction themselves. The immoral conduct of some of the whalers is dreadful. In the midst of all difficulties the mission is going on well. The natives where the missionaries reside are greatly improved in every respect, and some of them appear to be very pious.
As I was aware the news of war in the Bay of Islands would reach England, I thought the friends of the missionaries might be uneasy, and therefore have stated the above.
I remain, &c.,
P.S.—As the ship has been detained for want of supplies until now, gives me an opportunity to inform you that peace was ratified on the 18th inst., to our great satisfaction. We have had much to do since I arrived. I have no doubt but this war will greatly extend the influence of the missionaries, and turn out well.