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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.

Governor Darling to the Secretary of State

Governor Darling to the Secretary of State.

New South Wales
Government House
13th April, 1831.

My Lord


* * * *

I have to make known to your Lordship the circumstance of an event which is distinguished as an act of premeditated atrocity on the part of the Master and Crew of a British Vessel, the object of which was to obtain a common article of merchandize.

It appears that a Captain Stewart, of the brig Elizabeth, a Trader between this and New Zealand, being desirous of procuring a Cargo of Flax, proceeded for the purpose to Entry Island, which lies in Cooks Straits and there entered into an agreement with a chief name Rauparaha to supply him, on the condition of his conveying Rauparaha and his Tribe to Banks Peninsula, which is on the eastern Coast of the Middle Island, (The Islands of New Zealand consisting of three) in order to their having an opportunity of avenging some act formerly committed by the People of that District.

Captain Stewart received the Chief and his People on board the Elizabeth, who, it is stated, were numerous, exceeding 100, and proceeded with them according to his Agreement.

The following was related to me this morning, by a son of one of the principal Chiefs, who said his father had desired he would come to Sydney and tell the Governor all that happened, that the White People might be punished.

This man who appeared extremely intelligent, stated that the Natives were kept on board the Elizabeth in perfect secrecy, so much so, that it was not known that they had arrived, until some days after, when they landed. It appears that Captain Stewart went on shore, in the meantime, and used every possible artifice by professions of kindness and the offer of arms and ammunition, to induce the Chief of the District, Mara Nui,* to go page 593 on board of his Brig. He at length succeeded and Mara Nui took his daughter with him, a girl, as described, of 11 or 12 years old.

They were taken into the Cabin and Mara Nui was immediately put in Irons by the Mate named Clementson. Unacquainted with his fate, Mara Nui's wife proceeded on board and several Canoes went off, the people as they arrived being secured by Rauparaha, whose Tribe, as I have stated, remained in concealment on board the Elizabeth.

After securing the Chief, to which it appears some importance was attached (by the exertions used by Captain Stewart to induce him to visit his Vessel) Rauparaha and his people landed the same night, and appear to have indulged their natural erocity to the utmost, by putting everyone to death, without distinction of sex or age, and burning their village to the ground.

It seems they were re-embarked, with the remains of their victims, which were not reserved as mere trophies but also made use of to gratify their inhuman appetites. Mara Nui and his Wife, seeing the fate which awaited them, strangled their child; and, as they appear to have foreboded, they, with the other Prisoners, on the return of the Elizabeth to Entry Island, were landed and put to death in cold blood.

The Native, whom I have mentioned as having related these facts, was accompanied by a fine lad of about fifteen, the nephew of Mara Nui. He was made prisoner at Banks Peninsula, and said that three of Mara Nui's brothers had been killed on that occasion, or afterwards put to death at Entry Island.

The sanguinary proceedings of these Savages could only be equalled by the atrocious conduct of Captain Stewart and his Crew. Rauparaha may, according to his notions, have supposed that he had sufficient cause for acting as he did. Captain Stewart became instrumental to the massacre, (which could not have taken place but for his agency) in order to obtain a supply of flax.

This event was first brought under my notice early in the month of February last, and I lost not a moment in giving orders that it should be immediately proceeded in; the Elizabeth, the Captain, and the Crew, being here at the time. The depositions which were taken before the Magistrates (Copies of which are enclosed for your Lordship's information) were referred to Mr. Moore, the Crown Solicitor, on the 7th of February, the day they were received. But it will be seen by the accompanying copy of Mr. Moore's Letter, that he entertained doubts whether there were sufficient grounds for putting the parties on page 594 their Trial. I, nevertheless, desired that he should proceed, as will be seen by the accompanying correspondence, considering it a case in which the Character of the Nation was implicated and that every possible exertion should be used to bring the offenders to justice. It has, however, lain over to the present time, and there is reason to apprehend, that the parties, with the exception of Captain Stewart, who is admitted to Bail, have all left the Colony, which may render any proceedings in his case ineffectual.

A Mr. Gordon Browne, who resided for some time in New Zealand and who intends to return thither, first brought this matter under notice. I delayed taking any further steps until the result of the legal proceedings should be known. A recent occurrence, however, has induced Mr. Browne again to draw my attention to the subject, which, coupled with the appeal made to me by the New Zealand Chief through his Son, as I have already stated, appears to me to render it necessary that the Government should not, by any supineness on the part of its Officers which it may have the power of counteracting, allow it to be supposed that these proceedings are countenanced or viewed with indifference.…

I have &c

R. A. Darling


* Tamaiharanui.