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Historical Records of New Zealand

Memorial of the Committee of the Church of England Missionary Society

Memorial of the Committee of the Church of England Missionary Society.

[The memorial bears no date, but it was made out in the year 1817.]

To the Right Honourable Earl Bathurst, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Department of the Colonies, &c.

The memorial of the Committee of the Church of England Missionary Society for Africa and the East humbly sheweth,—

That the Church Missionary Society has been engaged for years in endeavouring to propogate the knowledge of the Christian religion among the idolatrous nations of Africa and the East, and thereby to promote their civilization, as well as their spiritual and eternal welfare.

That in the prosecution of these designs the Society has directed its attention to the inhabitants of the islands of the South Seas, and especially to those of New Zealand, whose active and intelligent character appeared to offer a favourable field for their exertions. In the cause of the year 1814, having obtained a grant of land from one of the chiefs of the country, the Society established a settlement in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, at which three missionary settlers, with their families, have been since resident.

That the efforts of these settlers, as far as it has been possible hitherto to extend them, have been attended with most encouraging success. They have found the natives in the vicinity of a frank and affectionate character, desirous to cultivate their friendship, and to receive instruction, and the Society entertain a confident hope that by the establishment of schools page 418 and by other means of instruction they shall in due time be enabled, under the Divine blessing, to diffuse the knowledge of Christianity throughout this populous and benighted land, and to rescue a noble race of men from the horrible superstitions and savage customs by which they are now degraded. The Society feels warranted also to hope that its exertions will tend in other ways to meliorate the condition of the islanders. Their settlers have already introduced among them the cultivation of wheat and other grain, and a foundation may perhaps be thus laid for the agricultural improvement of this fertile and productive country, which may hereafter render it not an unimportant object of commercial attention.

That the hopes which your memorialists thus entertain have been greatly checked by the intelligence continually received by them of the atrocities committed by the European traders in the South Seas, by which not only the most grievous injuries are inflicted on the natives, but their minds are exasperated to acts of barbarous revenge, all tendency to a milder and more civilized character is repressed, confidence in the character and designs of the European settlers is weakened, and the lives of themselves and their families are seriously endangered.

That your memorialists have received various documents from time to time from New South Wales, copies of some of which they hereunto annex, and to which they beg permission to refer Your Lordship, for proof of the numerous crimes, which are and have been for several years frequently perpetrated by the Europeans in those seas, and of which proof is established not only by private communications but by Judicial depositions and by General Orders issued by the Colonial Government. To a few of the more flagrant of these transactions your memorialists will beg leave shortly to advert.

In the year 1810 the ship Boyd sail’d from Port Jackson to Whangarooa in New Zealand with some natives on board, one of them the son of the head chief of the place. These persons were very ill used during the voyage. The young chief, who had fallen sick and was unable to work as a sailor, was severely flogged, treated with great indignity, and sent on shore, lacerated with stripes. When the treatment which he had received became known to his friends and people it roused them to fury; they seized the ship, and put the captain and all the crew to death. Soon after this Tippahee, a chief belonging to the Bay of Islands, and who was well known and respected at Port Jackson, was accused of having been concerned in the massacre. In consequence of this report, the whalers, who were on the coast, manned and armed seven boats, landed on the island of page 419 Tippahee, and shot every man, woman, and child that came in their way. Tippahee was severely wounded. It has since been ascertained that this chief (who was accidently at Whangarooa when the Boyd was cut off) so far from being guilty of the crime imputed to him, he exerted himself to save the lives of the crew. His people must have been known to be guiltless, for their territory was forty miles distant from Whangarooa; yet thus have the unoffending inhabitants of a whole island been exterminated by a lawless act of private vengeance. (See Appendix, No. 1.)

A year or two before this the captain of an English ship which was sailing by one of the islands fired, without any provocation, five or six large guns, loaded with grape shot, among a multitude of natives, men, women, and children, who were assembled on the beach to look at the vessel, and killed and wounded several of them. When remonstrated with for this act of wanton barbarity he only said it was necessary to strike terror into the minds of these natives, and convince them of what power we possessed. (No. 2.)

In 1812 the schooner Parramatta put into the Bay of Islands, in distress, for provisions and water. She was supplied by the natives with potatoes, pork, and fish to the extent of their wants, and when they required payment they were thrown overboard, fired at, and wounded. The schooner immediately weighed anchor, but was soon after driven on shore in a storm, and the islanders revenged themselves by putting the crew to death. (No. 3.)

In the same year the brig Daphne was off the Island of Riematerra when eighteen natives came off in three canoes with fruit; they were invited on board, behaved in the most friendly and respectful manner, and delivered their cargoes of supplies, for which they received a trifling remuneration. The captain then ordered the crew to turn them out of the ship; this was done in the most barbarous manner; they were beaten with ropes to force them over the sides of the ship into the sea; they swam to their canoes, which were swamped, and fourteen of them were drowned within sight of the brig. (No. 4.)

The settlers sent by your memorialists to the Bay of Islands had been established there only a few months when a dreadful slaughter and massacre of the natives by Europeans took place in the vicinity, by which the infant settlement was thrown into great alarm and peril, and a stop put to the erection of necessary buildings there by persons who had been sent out by your memorialists, at great expense, from Port Jackson, for that purpose, but who refused to continue in the settlement from apprehension of their lives. (No. 5.)

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That your memorialists will not dwell on the various instances in which potatoe grounds (the chief culture of these islands) have been destroyed, and the produce stolen; in which the property of the natives has been forcibly taken or fraudulently obtained, under pretence of purchase, and no equivalent given; in which their chiefs have been imprisoned and ill treated in order to extort a ransom; and all these misdeeds too often accompanied by circumstances of wanton cruelty. (Nos. 6, 7, 8.)

That in a recent case proceedings have been instituted at Port Jackson against the captain of a trading vessel for acts of oppression and cruelty against the chiefs and other natives of one of the Marquesas Islands, in which after a full investigation a conviction took place on the whole of the charges; but the party convicted has escaped with impunity, on account of the inadequacy of the powers vested in the Magistrates to punish the offence. (No. 9.)

That your memorialists are informed that there is no competent jurisdiction in New South Wales for the cognizance and punishment of such offences as have been enumerated, nor any adequate means for their prevention; and that no remedy at present exists but sending persons charged with the perpetration of such enormities to be tried at the Admiralty Sessions in England.

That in the recent conviction before stated the party found guilty not only departed from Port Jackson with impunity, but was not even held to bail to appear before any Sessions in England.

That even the establishment of a tribunal with adequate power of punishment in New South Wales would not in all cases be effectual to remedy the evil, since it frequently happens that the vessels whose captains and crews have committed these atrocities do not return thither, and that some further measure seems therefore requisite for the protection of the islanders, and the prevention of the crimes by which the moral character of Great Britain is degraded by the conduct of her subjects trading in those seas.

That, in consequence of the want at present of any sufficient provision by colonial tribunals or otherwise for the prevention or the punishment of crimes committed in the islands of the South Seas, your memorialists submit that not only the lives of the missionaries and settlers in those islands are exposed to the most imminent hazard, but that all endeavors to extend the blessings of Christianity and civilization among the natives must thereby be in a great measure frustrated, and the reasonable hope of advantage which might be derived therefrom even, to our own country is destroyed.

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Your memorialists therefore, while they would not take upon themselves to suggest how far it may be requisite to investigate the criminal acts already committed, and to bring the perpetrators of them to justice, do yet, and humbly, pray Your Lordship to take the matters contained in this memorial into your earliest and most serious consideration, and to devise such measures for remedying the evils therein stated, and for preventing the recurrence of similar enormities as in Your Lordship’s wisdom shall appear expedient.