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Historical Records of New Zealand

Rev. S. Marsden’s Account of his First Visit to New Zealand

Rev. S. Marsden’s Account of his First Visit to New Zealand.

Observations on the Introduction of the Gospel into the South Sea Islands: Being my First Visit to New Zealand in December, 1814.

When the fulness of time drew near for these poor heathen nations to be favoured with the knowledge of Divine revelation, the Supreme Governor of the World overruled the political affairs of America and England to further this object, and made the wrath of man to praise Him.

One great step was accomplished when America, in July, 1776, was declared a free and independent nation. A short time before this important event took place, Captn. Cook, accompanied page 332 by the late Sir Joseph Banks, had been sent by the British Government to visit the South Sea Islands; and during this voyage the great navigator visited New South Wales, and anchored in Botany Bay.

After peace had been established between England and America, in the year 1783, the British Government found that it had now no place to which the national convicts might be transported. In this dilemma, it has been said that the late Sir Joseph Banks recommended to His Majesty King George the Third to form an establishment at Botany Bay expressly for convicts, and upon this suggestion an Act of Parliament was passed for that purpose.

It is obvious that neither His late Majesty nor his Minister had, in these political arrangements, any intention to convey the Gospel to the nations of the South Sea Islands, but merely to provide a recepticle for the criminal population of Britain. Yet He who governs the universe and has the hearts of kings in His own hands had that merciful object in view. As a proof of the correctness of this remark, it is a well known fact that when the first fleet was ready to sail with the convicts for New South Wales, in the year 1787, no clergyman had been thought of. A particular friend of mine, a pious man of some influence, who was anxious for the spiritual welfare of the convicts, made a strong appeal to those in authority to induce them to appoint a clergyman to superintend the spiritual concerns of all, both free and bond, who embarked to form the intended establishment in New South Wales. Accordingly, through the interest of the late Dr. Porteous, the Revd. Richard Johnston was appointed chaplain. The above single fact, therefore, clearly shows that the whole was under the superintending providence of an all wise and merciful God. Though He did not establish a colony in New South Wales for the advancement of His glory, and the salvation of the heathen nations in these distant parts of the globe, by selecting men of character and principle, on the contrary, He took men from the dregs of society—the scrapings of jails, hulks, and prisons—men who had forfeited their lives or liberties to the laws of their country; but He mercifully gave them their lives for a prey, and sent them forth to make a way for His missionary servants—for them that should bring glad tidings—that should publish peace to the heathen world—that should say unto them in the name of the Lord, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.“ Well may we exclaim, with the apostle, “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.“

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Having made the above preliminary observations, I need only add that on the 26th of January, 1788, the first convicts arrived in Botany Bay under the command of Admiral Phillip, who was appointed Governor of the new colony.

I shall now proceed to notice the first dawn of the rising of the sun of righteousness upon the poor benighted heathen of New Zealand. In the year 1793, His Majesty’s ship “Dedalus,“ commanded by Lieut. Hanson, was in the South Seas on discovery, and during his voyage the Lieut. touched at New Zealand, and anchored in Sandy Bay, a little to the southward of the North Cape. Some natives came off, in their canoes, to see the ship, among whom were two young chiefs,* who alone could be prevailed upon to go on board; they were invited into the cabin, and were much entertained with the various objects they then saw. Soon after they had come on board, Lieut. Hanson weighed anchor and sailed for Norfolk Island. The two young chiefs, not being aware of the ship’s sailing, and when they came on deck seeing themselves at a considerable distance from the land, and all their canoes returned to the shore, became much alarmed for their personal safety. Lieut. Hanson and his officers did what they could to pacify their minds, being anxious to carry them safely to Norfolk Island, and deliver them to Captain King, who was at that time Lieut. Governor of the island, and wanted some New Zealanders to instruct Europeans how to dress flax, which grew there spontaneously, and was of the same quality with the flax of New Zealand. I have always considered this circumstance as one of the first apparent steps, adopted by Divine Providence, to prepare the way for the introduction of the Gospel into New Zealand.

Captain King treated Hoodoo and Tokee with the kindest attention: they lived at Government House, and everything was done to quiet their minds and gain their confidence.

When they had resided with him about nine months, the merchant ship “Britannia“ (on her way to the Cape of Good Hope for supplies to the Colony of New South Wales) touched at the island, and was engaged by the Lieut. Governor to take the two youths to their native country. He embarked with them himself, in order to prevent any insult or injury being done to them. He saw them safely landed among their friends, and gave them some hogs, various instruments for agricultural purposes (such as axes, spades, &c.). He also supplied them with clothes, and such other articles as he thought conducive to their future good. The great kindness and solicitude shewn by Captain King for their welfare made a deep impression on their page 334 minds, and filled them with gratitude and esteem towards the donor, as they afterwards testified to myself and others.

During the nine following years little communication took place between the New Zealanders and Europeans, either at Norfolk Island or at New Zealand; a few of them, however, came occasionally, in whalers, to Port Jackson, and with some of these I became acquainted as opportunity offered.

About the year 1802–3 a small Government vessel, the “Lady Nelson,“ commanded by Lieut. Simmons, was sent with supplies to Norfolk Island, but was driven by violent contrary winds to the east side of New Zealand, and anchored in the Bay of Islands. Captain King had by this time returned to England, and Norfolk Island was under the command of Captain Townson, an officer of the New South Wales Corps. This change did not, however, prevent a longing desire in the late chief Tippahee and four of his sons to see the island where the two young chiefs before mentioned had been so kindly treated; they were allowed a passage in the “Lady Nelson,“ and received every attention from the officer in command.

After they had been some time on the island, His Majesty’s ship “Buffalo,“ commanded by Captain Houston, arrived from Port Jackson, by which means Tippahee learned that the late Captain King had come out Governor of New South Wales, and expressed his wish to visit Sydney. He obtained a passage accordingly, and the Governor received him and his friends with the greatest cordiality. They were invited to Government House, where they lived at their pleasure.

Tippahee was a man of high rank and influence in his own country. He possessed a clear, strong, and comprehensive mind, and was anxious to gain what knowledge he could of our laws and customs. He was wont to converse much with me about our God, and was very regular in his attendance at church on the Sabbath; and, when at public worship, behaved with great decorum. After satisfying his curiosity, he and his friends returned to their native home.

About two years after Tippahee departed, the young chief Duaterra, accompanied by several of his countrymen, came to Port Jackson, which gave an opportunity to me of having frequent communication with this very interesting people. The more I examined into their national character the more I felt interested in their temporal and spiritual welfare. Their minds appeared like a rich soil that had never been cultivated, and only wanted the proper means of improvement to render them fit to rank with civilized nations. I knew that they were cannibals—that they were a savage race, full of superstition, and wholly under the power and influence of the Prince of Darkness—and page 335 that there was only one remedy which could effectually free them from their cruel spiritual bondage and misery, and that was the Gospel of a Crucified Saviour. But, as Saint Paul observes, “How could they believe on Him of whom they had not heard, and how could they hear without a preacher, and how could they preach except they be sent?“ After seriously considering their degraded condition, and embracing all opportunities of gaining a perfect knowledge of their character, I resolved to return to England, as soon as I could obtain leave of absence, and endeavour to get some missionaries sent out to preach the Gospel to this people. I was fully convinced that there were no insurmountable difficulties in the way of preaching the Gospel in New Zealand; and I felt no apprehension that the lives of missionaries, if any were sent, would be in danger, being confident that I could personally go with safety if I saw it was my duty to do so.

Under these impressions, I waited on His Excellency Governor Bligh (who had now relieved Governor King in the government of the colony) to obtain the necessary leave of absence to visit England, which was granted on condition that the Rev. H. Fulton, who was then at Norfolk Island, should perform my duty as chaplain to the colony during my absence (being myself the only clergyman in New South Wales at that period). Fortunately, a vessel was just about to sail for Norfolk Island, by which I wrote to Mr. Fulton, and another ship very opportunely touched at that place while on her way to Sydney (about this time), which enabled that gentleman to comply with my request, so as to arrive at Port Jackson sooner than I expected. As such opportunities were of rare occurrence, I considered this circumstance a highly favourable dispensation of Providence towards myself at that time, being aware that a great political storm was fast gathering in the colony in which (if I remained) I could not well avoid being involved; and to gratify my earnest desire of having the Gospel preached at New Zealand, as well as to secure my own quiet, I was most anxious to quit the colony without delay, lest I should be prevented from proceeding on the design I had formed. It was therefore a matter of great joy to me when I obtained His Excellency’s leave of absence, and got on board of His Majesty’s ship “Buffalo“ along with the late Governor King. We sailed in February, 1807, and arrived in England in the November following.

Shortly after my arrival in London I waited upon the Reve end Josiah Pratt, Secretary to the Church Missionary Society, and stated my views on the degraded state of the New Zealanders for the want of moral and religious instruction, and requested that the Committee would take their miserable page 336 situation into its favourable consideration. The Rev. J. Pratt attended to my request with the greatest kindness, which inspired me with the hope that the Committee would enter into my views, and render the assistance solicited.

I remained in England more than fourteen months, during which period I waited upon the Committee several times, and it was ultimately resolved to send three missionaries out with me on my return to the colony. No clergymen, however, offered their services on this occasion. The character of the New Zealanders was considered more barbarous than that of any other savage nation, so that few would venture out to a country where they could anticipate nothing less than to be killed and eaten by the natives. At length two mechanics agreed to accompany me, and I was very glad of their offer, as I conceived that they, like Caleb and Joshua of old, might open the way for others at a future time to take possession of the land. They accordingly embarked with me in 1809 for New South Wales.

On our arrival at Port Jackson, in February, 1810, we received the melancholy news that the ship “Boyd,“ of 600 tons burden, had been burnt, and the captain and crew all murdered and eaten by the natives of Whangarroo, in New Zealand. This most awful calamity extinguished at once all hopes of introducing the Gospel into that country. Every voice was naturally raised against the natives, and against all who were in any way attached to their interest. None lamented this calamity more than myself.

Another dreadful occurrence soon after took place. At the time I here allude to there were seven whalers on the coast of New Zealand, and the masters of these vessels, having heard of the fate of the “Boyd,“ sailed into the Bay of Islands, which lies about forty miles to the southward of Whangarroo, and in the night each ship sent a whale-boat, with an armed crew, who landed on Tippahee’s Island, and there murdered every man and woman they could find. In this dreadful slaughter my friend Tippahee received seven shots, and died of his wounds. Many other friendly disposed people were killed. It was alleged by the Europeans, as a justification of this horrid massacre, that Tippahee assisted in the destruction of the “Boyd“ and her crew; though at the same time he was an innocent man. The mistake appears to have originated in the near similarity in the names of the two chiefs—that of the chief at the Bay of Islands was Tippahee, and the name of the other at Whangarroo (who aided in the destruction of the “Boyd“) was Tippoohee. I knew them both well.

After these awful events, the way to New Zealand appeared to be completely hedged up, though I did not despair of the page 337 ultimate success of the mission, from my personal knowledge of the real character of the New Zealanders, provided I could get any vessel to take the missionaries to New Zealand, who were then with me at Parramatta, and willing to go. I waited more than three years, and no master of a vessel would venture for fear of his ship and crew falling a sacrifice to the natives.

At length I purchased a brig called the “Active.“ which had come from India, and applied to the then Governor Macquarie for permission to go with the brig myself along with the missionaries; but His Excellency refused my request. At the same time he promised that if I sent the “Active,“ and she returned safe I should then have permission to go. I was satisfied with this answer, but felt at a loss to find a suitable person to navigate the brig, because the risk of being murdered and eaten by the New Zealanders prevented several shipmasters from accepting the office. Mr. (now Count) Dillon, who afterwards went in search of La Pereuse (La Perouse), was then in Sydney (1814), and I engaged him to take the command of the “Active.“ I then wrote a letter to the chief Deuaterra, or Duaterra, whom I had known nine years before, requesting him to return with the brig, and to bring with him three or four chiefs, as also to acquaint the natives that I had sent missionaries in the vessel to see their country, and that it was my intention also to visit New Zealand, provided the brig returned in safety from their coast, and that the missionaries would then accompany me, for the purpose of forming a settlement on the island. Under these circumstances Mr. Dillon sailed with the missionaries, and in due time returned to Port Jackson without injury to himself, the crew, nor to the vessel.

The “Active“ having safely arrived in port, I lost no time in calling upon His Excellency for the fulfilment of his promise. My leave of absence was immediately granted, and, with all convenient dispatch, I embarked in company with the missionaries, their families, and five chiefs—namely, Shunghee, Torokoro, Toui, Toui’s brother, and Duaterra.

We sailed from Sydney Cove, 19th November, and reached the Bay of Islands, in New Zealand, on the 22nd December, 1814. After arranging all matters respecting the mission as well as circumstances would permit (which will be detailed hereafter), I left the island, in the same vessel, about the first of March, 1815. Duaterra was then dangerously ill, and, as I afterwards learned, he died four days after the “Active“ sailed for Sydney. The death of this chief was a very afflictive dispensation—he was a man of comparatively great knowledge, loved his country, and was most anxious for its welfare. His character, conduct, and sufferings will be better seen in the following memoir, which has already been published:—

* Hoodoo and Tokee.