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Historical Records of New Zealand

Extract from the “Evangelical Magazine“ for 1821

Extract from the “Evangelical Magazine“ for 1821.

New Zealanders Cannibals, as related by Mr. Samuel Leigh, Wesleyan Missionary, lately come from New Zealand.

“While I continued in the Island,“ says Mr. Leigh, “one day, as I was walking on the beach, conversing with a chief, page 574 my attention was arrested by a great number of people coming from a neighbouring hill. I inquired the cause of the concourse, and was told that they had killed a lad, were roasting him, and going to eat him. I immediately proceeded to the place, in order to ascertain the truth of this appalling relation. Being arrived at the village where the people were collected, I asked to see the boy. The natives appeared much agitated at my presence, and particularly at my request, as if conscious of their guilt; and it was only after a very urgent solicitation that they directed me towards a large fire at some distance, where, they said, I should find him. As I was going to this place, I passed by the bloody spot on which the head of this unhappy victim had been cut off; and, on approaching the fire, I was not a little startled at the sudden appearance of a savage-looking man, of gigantic stature, entirely naked, and armed with a large axe. I was a good deal intimidated, but mustered up as much courage as I could, and demanded to see the lad. The cook (for such was the occupation of this terrific monster) then held up the boy by his feet. He appeared to be about fourteen years of age, and was half roasted. I returned to the village, where I found a great number of natives seated in a circle, with a quantity of coomery (a sort of sweet potatoe) before them, waiting for the roasted body of the youth. In this company were shown to me the mother of the child. The mother and child were both slaves, having been taken in war. However, she would have been compelled to share in the horrid feast, had I not prevailed on them to give up the body to be interred, and thus prevented them from gratifying their unnatural appetite. But notwithstanding this melancholy picture of New Zealand, I believe they are very capable of receiving religious instruction, and a knowledge of the arts in general. They are very ingenious and enterprising, and discover a surprising willingness to receive instruction. I did not visit any one village, where the principal chiefs did not strongly urge my residence among them; and I believe that God is preparing them to receive the ever-blessed Gospel of peace.“

“In the first year after our arrival,“ says Mr. Kendall, of the Church Missionary Society, “many New Zealanders died. They had not food sufficient to preserve life; and in this weak condition we could discern little of the native mind. Since then the natives in general at the Bay of Islands and in the adjacent country, eager to procure instruments of war and of husbandry, have exerted themselves so much in cultivating land for potatoes, Indian corn, &c., that they have not only obtained such articles as they wanted, but have lived much better themselves and have had but little mortality among page 575 them. Their native disposition has, of course, been greatly revived; and, being heathens still, they follow the customs and traditions of their forefathers with avidity. War is all their glory. They travel to the south, and kill great numbers. Although the natives in general shew no disposition to injure us; yet, being so unsettled and unsteady, our situation among them is the more trying.“