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Murihiku: A History of the South Island of New Zealand and the Islands Adjacent and Lying to the South, from 1642 to 1835

[1907 Preface]

The accompanying historical work is the result of nine years' research by the author into the forgotten past of South New Zealand history. That research first had for its object the early history of Southland, but as the information accumulated its area of operation enlarged to include the islands lying away to the south, and its range extended to cover the very earliest period of European discovery and trade.

As the field developed the author realised that the locality selected had a remarkable early history, commencing with the great discoverers Cook, Vancouver and Malaspina, developing into a seal, flax, oil and timber trade, under the best known names in early Australian shipping, running through various combinations of these trades and exhausting several of them before many of the events happened, which, in New Zealand history, are generally regarded as beyond its ken. The popular chronology of this country begins with the arrival of Cook in 1769, and treats as almost the next event the loss of the Boyd in 1809, following that up with the landing of Marsden in 1814, and then going on to missionary history in the Bay of Islands. Research, confined to the history of one portion only of New Zealand, shows how erroneous is such a representation of past events. The most fascinating period of New Zealand history—when the early sealer, in his little thirty ton craft, battled with the storms of the Tasman Sea and the uncharted rocks of Foveaux Strait in pursuit of skins, and later on, when the sea-elephant hunter, in his seventy-five ton brig, sought the cold inhospitable Macquarie Islands for the first cargoes of oil—had not only come but had gone, before Marsden landed.

page IV

The reader has to be told at this stage that Native history is not touched upon, except so far as it comes into contact with the European visitor. The work is intended to chronicle the progress of discovery and civilized trade. References to Natives are only incidental and occur in cases where sealing gangs came into conflict with the Maoris, or where, as in Captain Edwardson's case, a Maori chief was captured and brought to Sydney, thus coming into contact with men who have handed down to us the valuable material procured by them.

The search for the necessary information has been fairly extensive—much more so perhaps than the reader would imagine from merely glancing over the pages. Very little of the matter was already in book form, and what was so available was hidden away in rare volumes in English, Spanish, French and Russian, the last three without English translations. Malaspina's voyage, containing the account of the Spanish expedition, is in Spanish; Edwardson's information is in French and Bellingshausen's visit to Macquarie Island is in Russian. These are all extremely rare, and no English translation of any of them is known save that made for the author and published herein.

To give the reader an idea of the field covered for material, the places where search had to be made are mentioned. Owing to the early period under review—1770 to 1829—naturally nothing but a few q uotations from very early books could be got in New Zealand. The Hobart Colonial Secretary's Office was visited for information of Van Diemen's Land trade with New Zealand, and in Sydney the magnificent Free Public Library with its files of local papers, from 1803 to the present date, was patiently searched for months. At both places were got, among the general shipping news, information supplied by captains and others, while the events were fresh in their minds, of stirring scenes by land and sea. Sydney supplied the great bulk of this class of information, both from her Historical Records and from her newspaper files. Outside of Australian the trail was followed to the United States. The page V ports on the Eastern Coast, whence sealers and others came to scour the ocean, were visited, and Salem, Boston, New Bedford, Nantucket, Providence, Newport, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, supplied, in their historical societies and public libraries, a mass of newspapers and log books from which much was brought to the light of day, to add to the knowledge of our country's history. The American newspaper files do not contain such a mass of information as the Australian. The distance at which the events happened in part accounts for this, but the reticence of their early whalers, regarding the places visited and the nature of their trade, is a conspicuous feature in American journalism of this date. So far was it carried, that to prevent rival firms getting information, only the barest mention was made of matters involving life and death. Naturally the Mother Country had material for research, and in the Record Office and the British Museum, time—all too short—was profitably spent amongst long forgotten manuscripts. In the former were found the logs of all the Government vessels, enabling the first discovery or earliest mention of localities to be recorded in the words of the discoverer, in the latter, many rare and valuable manuscripts of a general nature.

Outside of these visits of the author, his research work has involved a fairly wide correspondence. The early days of New Zealand saw many of the European nations strongly represented in voyaging and discovery and in the sealing trade, and records of their visits would naturally be expected to be found in the capitals of their respective countries. In prosecution of the search for this class of information correspondence has been carried on for some years with Madrid and Paris, resulting in the discovery of valuable information for this work, and New Zealand history. Even St. Petersburg, the distant capital of the great Russian Empire, has, hidden away in its archives, interesting early information about the Dominion, which the author has not yet given up hopes of obtaining.

page VI

Nothing has surprised the author more, during his long search, than the great mass of discovery work found placed upon record in books but never translated into our language, and the number of great explorers, scarcely known to our writers, even by name. With two of these we are brought into contact in the present work—the great Spaniard Malaspina, and the equally great Russian Antarctic explorer, Bellingshausen. The former visited Doubtful Sound in 1793, the latter, Macquarie Island in 1820. The British Museum knows of no English translation of the work of either, although an abridged German translation is to be found of the latter. Yet, with the exception of Cook, we have produced no navigator greater than either of them.

Three years were spent in patient search before Malaspina's narrative was procured. One Australian historian, after getting on the track of it, abandoned the pursuit, concluding that the proceedings of the voyage had never been published. No copies of the first edition are known to the author, but a second edition, published in Madrid in 1885, can readily be procured. As translated the New Zealand reference is reproduced in Chapter V. Bellingshausen's visit was discovered through mention being made by the captain of a sealing vessel called the Regalia, when she arrived at Hobart Town from Macquarie Island in March 1821, that two Russian vessels had called there for wood and water. Search in the Sydney files of that date revealed the name of the commander and the nature of the expedition, and the catalogue of the British Museum showed where there was to be found a published narrative of the voyage. The translation makes Chapter XVII., and throws more light upon the methods and daily life of the early sea-elephant hunters of the southern seas, than anything written in the English language. It should be mentioned also that Bellingshausen visited the mainland of New Zealand and spent some time in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Reviewing, if the reader will permit of it, some of the work accomplished in the preparation of this book, the page VII author would give the first place in interest to the discovery of the log of the Endeavour, the old Dusky Sound wreck. The mention of American vessels, found while searching the Australian records, suggested a visit to the old whaling ports of the Atlantic States, and in 1906 the opportunity unexpectedly presented itself of realizing this long felt desire. Salem, Mass., was the first of the smaller ports visited, and there, in the magnificent manuscript collection of the Essex Institute, was found in one volume, got, no one knows where, the log of the Britannia when she deposited the first sealing gang on the coast of New Zealand in 1792 and when she subsequently returned there in 1793, of the Endeavour, during her celebrated voyage when she was abandoned in Facile Harbour in 1795, and of the Providence, the first vessel built in Australasia, when she sailed out of the yard in which she was built in Dusky during the same year. This marvellous combination of material was rendered possible by the fact that Mr. Robert Murry passed from fourth mate of the Britannia to third of the Endeavour and finally became captain of the Providence, carrying the same log throughout. It is not in every log that much information is found, all depends on the writer, but in this case the officer has fairly revelled in wealth of detail when the glamour of the lovely Sound was upon him. The mystery of Dusky vanished with this find. Probably it will never fall to the lot of the author, no matter how long his research work may be continued, to discover again so remarkable a series of manuscripts.

The steps taken and still being followed up, are necessarily bringing to hand from day to day fresh information relative to our history and the book could be added to considerably even now, if the author were suddenly called upon to re-write it. Eighteen months ago the work was almost ready for the public, and the first portion of an edition of six hundred copies was printed off, when the opportunity already referred to presented itself and the author visited America, where his researches resulted in such an amount of new material relating to page VIII Southern New Zealand that, on his return, the whole edition was destroyed and the work re-written, necessitating long delay.

The author has been told that owing to the disconnected nature of the material, it is impossible to write the early history of the south of New Zealand. Perhaps it is so, and perhaps this book will prove the best evidence of it. The material certainty is all that is claimed of it, but every effort has been made to place the facts in chronological order, in groups based upon the relationship of the events, and any abruptness in passing from one chapter to another may be due to the inability of the author or to the inaccessibility of the material. No doubt as new material comes to light wider generalization will render possible a more connected narrative.

With the intention of being explanatory and not apologetic, the object of placing upon record the narrative in such detail as has been done, is here referred to. So far no writer has sought to go with any degree of minuteness into the early trade connection of civilized man with these islands, and the vast amount of information which exists under this heading is unknown to the writer of modern history. Research indicates three great centres of trade in earlier days,—Foveaux Strait, Cook Strait and the Bay of Islands,—and the author thinks that if the most minute detail of the earliest history of these places is brought into the light in the form sought in this work, carefully checked and proved, there will be given to the writer of colonial history generally, material on which to base his work with a proper conception of its significance. Without a knowledge of the past a proper appreciation of the present is, of course, impossible. This book will supply, it is hoped, information up to the year 1829, relating to the southern trade centre.

The year 1829 was the end of the sealing and the beginning of the shore-whaling trade and for this reason was selected as a suitable stopping place when political changes took the author away from his uncompleted work, page IX to shoulder other responsibilities. The material is ready, however, for a continuation of the narrative almost down to the time when our present histories take up the thread, on the recognised settlement of the country. To present this to the reader in proper form must be reserved for opportunities yet to come, and as the publication of the Historical Records of New Zealand by the Government will enable the matter contained in the last four Appendices to be put there, the addition of the further material and the revision of the old can go hand in hand to bring the whole of the early history of Foveaux Strait within the compass of one volume.

The scheme as outlined would indicate that the work could not reasonably be expected to form a popular reading book. To have accomplished this would have required a literary ability, added to a capacity for research, which the author makes no claim to possess. The work has proved a source of great pleasure, whiling away many pleasant hours, cementing almost as many agreeable friendships, and bringing about several interesting visits to distant parts of the earth: and now that the labourer's task is over, he will be satisfied if disappointment with the narrative is accompanied with an admission that the information conveyed justifies its publication and is followed by a feeling that writers, gifted with the power of making history attractive, can gather what stores of information they want, from inside is covers.

The author would not like to conclude his labours without some suitable acknowledgment of the services rendered to him by many gentlemen here and in other lands. To attempt to mention the names of all would be out of the question, but there are many who may be said to have rendered signal service. Mr. A. H. Turnbull of Wellington placed the finest collection of New Zealand books and early Sydney files in the Dominion at the author's disposal. Mr. F. M. Bladen of the Free Public Library, Sydney, gave valuable information and access to copies of rare papers under his control. The assistance of the Hon. Geo. Fred. Williams, and Dr. Weld of Boston, Mass., U.S.A., did much page X to bring about the success of the Atlantic States tour. In the various historical societies visited in Massachusetts, the following rendered invaluable aid: Mr. Tillinghast of the State House Library, Boston; Mr. G. F. Dow, of the Essex Institute, Salem; Mr. L. W. Jenkins of the Peabody Museum, Salem; Mr. G. H. Tripp of the New Bedford Library; and Messrs W. A. Wing, Frank Wood and H. B. Worth of the Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford. Dr. Putnam and Mr. David Hutcheson of the Library of Congress, Washington, rendered good service in that magnificent collection of literary material. Mr. Frank E. Brown of New Bedford supplied a valuable collection of old charts of New Zealand. In London our High Commissioner, the Hon. W. P. Reeves, exerted himself specially to assist the author. Mr. Charles Wilson, Librarian to the New Zealand Parliament, made accurate translations of the rare French works quoted. Mr A. B. Thomson of the General Assembly Library overlooked the publication and prepared the index.

Parliament Buildings,
Wellington, New Zealand,4th May, 1907.