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Historical Records of New Zealand

Evidence taken by Commissioner Bigge

page 499

Evidence taken by Commissioner Bigge.

(Wednesday, 8th December, 1820.)
Questions. Answers.
Q. How long have you been in the command of the brig Active and in the service of the Missionarv Soeiety? A. Three years in both.
Q. To what islands have you usually proceeded? A. I have made two voyages to the Society Islands and several to New Zealand.
Q. What is the ordinary voyage from hence to New Zealand? A. I have been six weeks and also thirteen days—one within three weeks a fair passage. The winds are very variable.
Q. Have you yourself traded to the Bay of Islands? A. Generally.
Q. What has been the chief articles you have carried there? A. All sorts of ironmongery, linen, and woollen for the use of the missionaries.
Q. Have you been allowed to trade on your account? A. I have never been prevented and I have brought up a few articles on my own account.
Q. Are the articles you carry from hence consigned to the missionaries? A. All of them are, and when there whatever I want for the use of the ship I receive from them.
Q. What is the general description of articles that you receive in return from the missionaries? A. Chiefly timber, a little flax, and some pork.
Q. Who keeps the accounts of the disbursements of the vessel and who defrays them? A. Mr. Campbell has had the whole management since Mr. Jones left Sydney.
Q. Do you conceive that the cargoes which you have brought back furnish any means towards the expense of the vessel? A. It assists in paying a part, but does not make any return to cover the expenses.
Q. Have you found that the produce which you brought back finds a ready market? A. Nothing but pork, and that I am only enabled to procure in small quantities.
Q. Have you ever taken any spirits on board to New Zealand? A. I never have.
Q. Have the natives there a fondness for it? A. They have not. I have seen them taste it out of curiosity, and they have always disliked it.page 500
Q. Have you always understood that they have had the same aversion for it? A. Always since I have known the islands.
Q. Have you had an opportunity of observing the habits, character, and customs of the New Zealanders? A. I have at the different times I have been there.
Q. Are you of opinion that the intercourse which has been carried on between them and the inhabitants of this colony and other Europeans has had any considerable effect in civilizing and improving them? A. When I first frequented these islands about ten or eleven years ago they were in a constant state of apprehension thro’ the ill treatment they had received from European seamen. I have seen instances of English captains and seamen taking their goods and provisions from them by force, and I have seen them flogged at the rigging on suspicion of theft. These occurrences were frequent; but since the establishment of the missionaries they have greater confidence in their intercourse with Europeans. They approach the ships unarmed and traffic with us on amicable terms. I have never had any misunderstanding with them since I have had the command of the Active, tho’ I have had nearly two hundred at once on board of the ship.
Q. Are the South Sea whaling vessels in the habit of touching often at New Zealand at present? A. They frequently do, and touch at the Bay of Islands.
Q. Do you think that they touch at the remote parts of the islands? A. At the North Cape and East Cape they do.
Q. Do you think that if all English vessels were bound under a heavy penalty to touch at no other part or port of New Zealand or such other place as there was a missionary establishment, that it would have the effect of preventing the outrages being committed on the inhabitants? A. I think it would have that effect.
Q. Since the establishment of the missionaries in the Bay of Islands have you recollected of any instance of outrage upon the inhabitants being committed by sailors or officers in that place? A. Sometime since the establishment I recollect a brig and a schooner left this port for New Zealand, and they took with them a young native chief, and on the passage he agreed to supply them with some flax, pigs, and potatoes which he had at New Zealand; on his arrival he delivered the property and asked for payment.page 501
The captain got the property into the ship, refused the payment for it or restore it to him, saying he should keep it for the passage he had given him to New Zealand. This enraged the young man, who acquainted his friends with the circumstances, and on the ship’s quitting their anchorage to proceed to Mercury Bay he proceeded overland with his friends, and these being joined by others attempted by force to take the ship. After a desperate struggle they were driven off, but not without lives being lost on both sides. I know also an instance of the ship Harriet, the second mate of which, of the name of Hunt, was desirous of obtaining the daughter of a chief who with others had been employed and assisted in loading the ship with timber. The chief, as well as the daughter, refused to comply with the wishes of the mate, and in his attempts to force her a scuffle ensued, and her head was beaten and wounded very severely. To revenge this outrage several other natives then on board planned an attempt to take the ship, which being overheard by a missionary on board and communicated to the captain, was prevented by the natives seeing the crew prepared. Otherwise, from what then passed and from what I have since heard from the chief, it was their intention to have seized the ship.
Q. Have you visited New Zealand since two of the missionaries have been appointed to act as Magistrates? A. Yes, I have.
Q. Have you known any instances of their authority being interposed? A. No other than for a dispute between the captain and ship’s company of the Admiral.
Q. Do the missionaries interpose in the disputes of the natives? A. They endeavour to persuade them not to go to war with each other and to reconcile their disputes that take place amongst them.
Q. Have the missionaries any means of enforcing their authority over Europeans or Englishmen who A. They have not. They have been insulted by the crews and even by the officers of Britishpage 502
may commit offences within their jurisdiction? whalers. One instance I recollect of the chief mate of the ship Phœnix, Captn. Parker, who, on the refusal of Mr. Kendall, the chief missionary, to allow a person to land who had sailed with him from this colony, and who had brought no passport from Govr. Macquarie, came up to his house from the ship, broke it open and damaged some of the furniture; the boat’s crew proceeded so far as to knock Mr. Kendall down, and the body of the natives would have instantly rescued him and attacked the crew if he had not prevented them.
Q. Then you conceive the missionaries possess authority to punish crimes with the means of enforcing it? A. I do.
Q. Does the present state of the whale fishery induce ships to remain long on the coast of New Zealand? A. It does from October till April or May. The ships remain in the offing catching whales and go into the Bay of Islands occasionally. They usually fish from the East Cape to the North Cape. They do not consider themselves safe in any other harbour than the Bay of Islands.
Q. Would the prohibition that I before hinted at be found prejudicial to the fishery so conducted? A. Not in the least.
Q. Do you consider that all the objects could be attained in the way of supplies to vessels by confining them to the Bay of Islands? A. I think they could and better than in any other part of New Zealand.
Q. Do you know in what ports in New Zealand the best species of timber is to be obtained? A. There is a great abundance in all parts, but a ship can obtain as much as she can load with at the Bay of Islands.
Q. Are there any natives settled round the Bay of Islands? A. A great many in private villages. One principal village is where the missionaries are esta blished.
Q. Can the labor of the natives be obtained for loading the ships, and what are their terms? A. It can, and a certain portion of labor is performed by them for the different articles that they receive, and so much for a toma-hawk, a hatchet, or a saw.