Historical Records of New Zealand
Rev. S. Marsden to Governor Darling
Rev. S. Marsden to Governor Darling.
May it please Your Excellency,—
I have taken the liberty of communicating the following circumstances to Your Excellency.
Having obtained permission from the Venerable the Archdeacon to visit the missionary stations at New Zealand belonging to the Church Missionary Society, I sailed from Port Jackson on the 16th of February, and anchored in the Bay or Islands on the 8th March. On my arrival I found the whole of the inhabitants around the bay in the utmost alarm, a battle having been fought two days previously between the neighbouring tribes at a settlement on the east side of the bay named Korakika, two miles distant from the missionary station on the west side. In this contest above 70 were killed or wounded. The bodies of the conquered men who were killed were lying on the beach, and those of the chiefs had been taken away by their friends, while the wounded were carried to the missionary station.
On landing I was informed by the chiefs and the missionaries that messengers had been despatched in all directions to summon the allies of the hostile parties, and that several thousand men page 706 were expected to join the two armies in two or three days to renew the contest.
I conceived it was a matter of the first importance to bring about a reconciliation between the hostile chiefs before their friends arrived, and therefore had a consultation the same evening with some of the chiefs along with the missionaries, who were both anxious to prevent more bloodshed. It was resolved that on the following day we should visit both armies, which we did, and stated the object of our mission.
The chiefs wished to know what satisfaction we would give them for the loss of their friends who had been killed in the battle, as the war originated wholly with the Europeans. We replied, it was not in our power to do more than to represent the bad conduct of Mr. Brin to his owners, and to prevent his return; and contended his bad conduct was no reason why they should continue to kill one another, and leave their children orphans and their wives widows. They admitted the force of this argument, but still contended for satisfaction from the Europeans, as they were amenable for the conduct of the masters of their vessels, and said if Mr. Brin returned to the bay they would take payment from him themselves. Their discussion continued for several days.
I may here notice that the proprietor of the settlement where the battle was fought had defeated his opponents and killed several of their chiefs, while none but common men were killed on his part.
I may here observe that this settlement is the most valuable spot in the country for trade, as the harbour is safe and convenient for shipping, and where they generally anchor.
As a condition of peace the party who had been conquered required the settlement to be surrendered up to them, as a compensation for the loss of their chiefs who had been killed. This at length was acceded to, as there was no alternative but either to risk another battle, which would have been very destructive, or to give it up. As soon as this arrangement was settled the allies of the parties began to return to their respective homes.
During the whole period of our negociation large bodies of armed men were daily arriving to join their respective friends, but we did not allow more than two chiefs from each party to accompany us in our visits to the camps, in order to guard as much as possible against any act of violence being committed on either side during the discussions until peace was restored.
Having stated the circumstances which occurred, I shall now refer to the cause of the war. The chiefs of both parties, as well as the missionaries, informed me that Mr. Brin, master of one of page 707 the whalers, several of which were at that time in the bay, was the sole cause of the public disturbance. The Rev. Henry Williams told me Mr. Brin had fifty native women on board his vessel, among whom there were three young women, daughters of chiefs belonging to the districts. Some difference took place between these young women and the head chief’s wife. It was said that Mr. Brin espoused the cause of his favourites, and urged the natives to murder the head chief. As soon as this was known to the natives belonging to the chief they would allow no supplies to go on board Mr. Brin’s vessel, in consequence of his bad conduct to them. Mr. Brin became very violent, and wrote to the masters of all the vessels, stating that he deemed it necessary that they should bring their ships nearer shore, hoist their colours, and fire upon the natives. They all refused to comply with his request. Mr. Brin immediately weighed his anchor and put to sea, after kindling the flame of war among the natives on account of the women that had been on board.
The masters of the whalers were much alarmed lest the natives should proceed to acts of violence and fire upon the ships. A boat belonging to one of them happened to be on the beach with the master when the natives began to fight. The chief’s wife and daughter ran to the boat in order to escape on board. As soon as they got into the boat they were fired upon, and the young woman was shot dead by her mother’s side. One of the masters had loaded his guns with cannister shot, to be ready to fire upon the natives. Mr. Davis, a catechist, happened to go on board at the time, and entreated the master not to fire upon the natives unless they should fire upon him. The masters of the ships were much alarmed, and all their supplies were stopped until peace was restored.
From what I have stated Your Excellency will judge what might have taken place if the angry feelings of the natives, excited by the death of their friends and the violence offered to their women, had not been appeased.
Your Excellency is aware there is no legal authority, civil, military, or naval, to restrain the bad conduct of the masters and crews of those ships which put into the harbours of New Zealand, nor to notice their crimes, however great; and from the great quantity of arms, powder, and ammunition now in the possession of the natives there is much reason to apprehend that they will at some period redress their own wrongs by force of arms, if no remedy is provided to do them justice.
I am of opinion that it would not be advisable to form at New Zealand a military establishment, as the soldiers would be too much exposed to temptation from the native women; a small armed King’s vessel, with proper authority, would be page 708 the most likely to prevent much mischief, as she might visit all the harbours into which the European vessels enter. The whaling vessels do not come into the Bay of Islands until the season on the coast is over. About March they put in for water and provisions; when they have obtained their supplies they either return home, or go to the northward to fill up in the winter season.
I may further observe, from the constant communication between New South Wales and New Zealand, it will be impossible to prevent the convicts from making their escape to these islands, where they commit every crime until an opportunity offers for them to return to Europe or America, which is not difficult for them to meet with from the number of vessels which put into the different harbours. These runaway convicts would be easily apprehended by a King’s vessel, whereas at present they go where they like, and none can interfere with them. These evils will increase with the increased communications if no legal check is put to them. Having made the above observations. I respectfully submit them to Your Excellency’s consideration.
And have, &c.,