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Historical Records of New Zealand

John Hunter, Mate of the Brig Active

page 503

John Hunter, Mate of the Brig Active.

(4th January, 1821.)
Questions. Answers.
Q. How long have you been employed in the brig Active, and in trading to New Zealand and Tahiti? A. I have been in her nearly eight years and was first employed as carpenter and have been mate these three years.
Q. Who do you know to be the owner of the brig Active, and under whose directions does she sail? A. I believe her to be owned by Mr. Marsden and to be sailed under his directions.
Q. What is the nature of the articles you have taken down to Tahiti and the Society Islands? A. We have taken tea, sugar, cotton, prints and shirts, chiefly Indian, but some part English: also flour, and some wine and spirits, about ten or fifteen gallons of each; all these were distributed amongst the missionaries.
Q. What is the greatest tonnage you have ever taken down to the Society Islands? A. The largest quantity was about twelve tons, which consisted of rice and flour; besides those things I have before mentioned.
Q. Has the brig ever taken muskets down to New Zealand and the Society Islands for the purpose of sale? A. Never. We have only had three or four on board for our own protection.
Q. Are not muskets in great demand at Tahiti and New Zealand? A. Not at Tahiti; but they are in New Zealand.
Q. Have you not observed in your late voyage to New Zealand the natives using muskets? A. I have seen them frequently, but not in great numbers; occasionally with bayonets fixed; but they were only used for firing at targets or marks.
Q. What is the greatest number of muskets you have seen at any one time in New Zealand? A. On the occasion of meeting of two or three hundred people for firing at marks, I never saw more than ten muskets together, nor in any of canoes did I ever see more than one or two.
Q. Have you any means of knowing whether the crew of the Active have ever sold muskets to the natives? A. I am certain they never did: they could not get them on board or reland them without my knowledge; and from knowing a little of the language I am sure it would have come to my knowledge if any of them had sold them.
Q. Are the cargoes you take to the Society Islands and New Zealand intended solely for the use and consumption of the missionaries there, A. As far as my knowledge goes they are intended for the use of the missionaries. There are also stores put on board for the ship’s use up topage 504
or are they applied for the purposes of trade and barter with the natives? the islands, and there are printed calicoes put on board also to exchange for pork at Tahiti for the ship’s use returning home. Sometimes a small quantity is brought down to Sydney and delivered over to Mr. Marsden by our own boats at Parramatta. I cannot say that it is for sale; I believe it is for the use of his own people.
Q. Are not the missionaries in the habit of sending pork to Sydney for sale on their own account received in payment from the natives for goods delivered to them? A. The first voyage I made to Tahiti the missionaries sent some pork to Sydney on their own account, but I never knew of any being sent from the missionaries of New Zealand.
Q. Have you ever known in your voyages to Tahiti that printed copies of the Gospels in the Tahiti language have been distributed in the Society Islands, and that pork and other articles have been received in payment for them, and have been consigned for sale in Sydney, designated by the names of the several vessels? A. I have never heard of that name being given to the pork; but I have to the oil that was taken in payment.
Q. Do you know that it is an invariable rule for the missionaries to receive payment for the copies of the Scripture they distribute to the natives? A. I have heard the natives say at Otaheite that they are obliged to pay the missionaries for the Scriptures which they received; but the natives at New Zealand are not yet in a state to read them, and therefore none that I know of are distributed there.
Q. What is the greatest quantity of pickled pork you have ever delivered to Mr. Marsden at Parramatta? A. A ton was the largest quantity we ever delivered.
Q. From your observations in your voyages to Tahiti, and from what you have heard there, can you inform me whether the natives had the means of producing any spirit by distillation? A. The first voyage I made there about five years ago I observed them use the spirit made from the tea root, which is a large root growing in the ground like a potato with a broad leaf.
Q. What is the process of distilling this root? A. They dig it from the ground, and put it into the oven to bake, and then some cut it up and put it into a cask or tub with a little water and let it remain to ferment. They then put the whole into large iron pots which are covered over, and the spirit is collected thro’ a bamboo-placed in water and runs into some vessel put under it.page 505
Q. Did you ever taste this liquor? Is it palatable and strong? A. Yes, I have. It is very strong, but has an earthy flavour, not unpalatable.
Q. Were the natives fond of it? A. They were then very fond of it.
Q. Is intoxication a common vice amongst them? A. They used to drink but not to intoxication. I believe they could bear a good deal without being drunk.
Q. Did you ever see them make use of British spirits? Do they prefer them? A. Yes, I have, and they prefer them to their own.
Q. What value are the Tahitians disposed to give for a bottle of rum? A. I have seen a bottle of spirits offered for a pig, but it could not be procured. It would only purchase a few cocoanuts or yams.
Q. In the last voyage that you made to Tahiti did you observe a great use of spirits? A. No, I did not. Many I have seen refuse even to taste it, and it is in general disuse. I have been told by several natives that the King sent his own people to break all the distilling utensils.
Q. To what cause do you attribute this change? A. To the interference of the missionaries and the influence they have used with the people.
Q. Does the King Pomarei continue to drink spirits as much as he used to do? A. Yes, he does; but I never saw him drunk.
Q. Have the New Zealanders the same means of distilling spirits as the Tahitians, and is the art of distillation known to them? A. They have the same root, but they do not distil from it, and I do not think they are acquainted with the art.
Q. Were you in the Active the first voyage she made to New Zealand? A. Yes, I was, as carpenter.
Q. How many muskets had she then on board? A. I am uncertain, but I think not more than five or six; it is eight years ago, and I cannot well recollect
Q. Have you over seen whaling vessels at and on the coast of New Zealand? A. Yes, I have.
Q. Have you seen muskets bartered for goods? A. I have not seen them bartered, but I have seen them go from the ship to the shore.
Q. Do you know what a musket would be exchanged for in New Zealand? A. They would give ten or twelve pigs for one.page 506
Q. Have you ever seen any gunpowder put on board the Active? A. None, except a small quantity for the ship’s use.
Q. From what source do you think the New Zealanders procure gunpowder? A. From the whalers with whom they barter.
Q. Did you observe any gunpowder at New Zealand the last time you were there? A. I saw a small quantity in the hands of the natives, about 2 or 3 lb.
Q. Are there any convicts who have escaped from this country established in New Zealand? A. 1 do not know of any. There are two carpenters Mr. Marsden took down, one of whom is a native born in the colony; the other I never saw before. I heard that an American vessel had taken several convicts from Sydney, had touched at New Zealand; but they all went away in her. About four years ago the Tryal which went from Sydney to New Zealand was seized there by some convicts which had already escaped; and took her to Tahiti, from whence they made their escape in different ships.
Q. Have you seen the two natives Teetaddee and Toohei in New Zealand who returned from England? A. Yes, I saw them there.
Q. Were they benefited in any way by their instruction in English habits or manners? A. I do not think they have in habits, but they have better manners. When the ships leave New Zealand they put off their European clothes and take to their own dress and change it again on the arrival of a ship.
Q. Do you think they have taught their countrymen our language, or other knowledge they may have acquired in Europe? A. No, I do not.