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Historical Records of New Zealand

The Admiralty to the Colonial Office

The Admiralty to the Colonial Office.

Admiralty Office, 20th Sept., 1821.


I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to transmit to you, for the information of Earl Bathurst, the accompanying extracts from a letter addressed to the Navy Board by Mr. Downie, master of the Coromandel store ship, containing information relative to New Zealand.

I am, &c.,

John Barrow.

Henry Goulburn, Esq., Colonial Department.


Extracts from a Letter from Mr. James Downie, Master commanding the Coromandel Naval Storeship, dated River Thames, New Zealand, 12th August, 1820.

I have found the natives in general much pleased with our visit. Though in themselves a warlike people, they are the last page 570 to give offence to strangers. They appear to be delighted with the manners of Europeans, and wish for nothing so much as for some of these to reside among them, in order to learn agriculture and obtain a knowledge of mechanics. War has hitherto been their whole study, but at present they seem tired of it, and at this time I am employed in bringing about a peace between two principal chiefs, who have been long at enmity. From one of these I am getting spars: his name is Tippohee: that of his rival is Henacke, a resident of the west side of the Thames. This man has no less than 51 spear wounds in his body, is in the prime of life, and seems heartily sick of warfare. There are great tracks of rich land on the banks of this river, particularly on the west side within the isles. A resident settled on the banks of the Thames, under the protection of the Arcekee and chiefs, would be a very desirable plan, and as a suitable person for this purpose Mr. Marsden has mentioned Mr. Hall,* the person alluded to in the first part of this letter, who is represented as a sensible, clever man, understands the language, agriculture, is a judge of timber, and has a particular turn for humouring the natives and bringing them into habits of industry. Mr. Marsden would settle him here, but has to receive the orders of the Church Missionary Society, by whom all the wants of Mr. Hall would be supplied, without any expense to the Government. There are about four or five thousand souls about this part and not a single civilised being among them to instruct them in anything useful. An active resident would have it in his power to get timber ready for any ships which might be sent for that purpose by keeping the natives employed, which their natural turn for good humour would tend to assist.

One thing I beg to draw your attention to is the improper traffic carried on by the South Sea whalers with the natives of the Bay of Islands in firearms and ammunition. These ships are supplied with a proportion of muskets, powder, and ball to barter for pigs and potatoes. The quantity thus disposed of is estimated at 5 cwt. of powder per annum. While this continues to be the case a fair trade with the natives cannot be carried on owing to the lawless spirit of those at the Bay of Islands, who while they are in possession of the means alluded to will never turn their minds to industry, but ravage and desolate the possession of others who having no other than native weapons are unable to stand before them. Such a trade, if possible, should be restricted, and particularly with those of the Bay of Islands, who may be considered as no other than a lawless banditti, living on the spoils of their slaughtered neighbours. The natives page 571 of this place live in continual fear of those at the Bay of Islands, and since our being among them have expressed a wish that one of our ships of war should be stationed between this and Port Jackson to prevent the excursions of hostile tribes, as also that of the sale of firearms, and this they observe would keep the people at home to cultivate the land instead of being always at war.

* A missionary resident at the Bay of Islands and a carpenter by trade.