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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Late Rev. Samuel Marsden

The Late Rev. Samuel Marsden.

Sir,—In your issue of the month of June, you have revived the scandalous charges made against the late Rev. Samuel Marsden by Mr. C. Wentworth and Governor Macquarie, and that when at a recent Public Meeting in Parramatta many of the speakers, highly respectable from position, and who had been associated with the Rev. Gentleman, spoke of him, as became living witnesses to his character, in terms of respect and esteem. Besides this, however, there is documentary evidence in abundance in refutation of these charges, which you might and should have perused before publishing the article in question, so painful to the feelings of three widowed daughters, his numerous grand-children and his surviving friends.

There is a brief memoir of his life, containing extracts from authorities which will furnish you with some important information as to the history of these proceedings of the past, and give you some insight into the character of the deceased even now vilified in his grave, and, I trust, lead you to do justice to his memory.

Beside the said memoir there are his pamphlets, published during the life time of the late Dr. Douglass, Governor Macquarie and Mr. Wentworth, and widely circulated, in refutation of these calumnies; also the official report of Mr. Bigge, the Commissioner of inquiry, who, at the pressing solicitation of Mr. Marsden, investigated these charges and pronounced judgment in favour of the deceased. To these I may add the inquiry of the Attorney-General (Bannister), the various addresses presented to him, the official dispatch of the Secretary of State, but, above all, the closing scene around his grave, where persons, who had been his opponents during life, came uninvited to pay a last tribute to his memory.

Men like Mr. Marsden (and few they be), who lived in despotic times and entered upon a wide sphere of activity, must expect obloquy, and he certainly had his share of it. He was a true Englishman in feeling, uncompromising in character, and thus was frequently brought into collision with the Governor and others of the day; a day of which you as a stranger can have no conception. As he corresponded with a wide circle of the most influential men in England, he was strongly suspected by the Governor of being the author of certain statements which were sent to the Home Government respecting acts which took place during the Governor's administration. He resisted some of the Governor's public orders; he took the depositions of three men who had been flogged without trial, which perhaps no other magistrate would have dared to do; and thus by his independence exasperated the Governor against him, and excited his parasites to convey implications against his character. But he stood his ground, fought his way, and has left a testimony behind him, even that of Governor Macquarie himself (see Commissioner's report), which ought to silence the most shameless of his adversaries.

Mr. Marsden lived in no ordinary times and was no ordinary man. While discharging the duties of his clerical office and maturing his schemes of missionary enterprise, he conveyed to this colony, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, many of the germs of civilisation, including manufactures, agriculture, horticulture and cattle-breeding, and was the promoter of several of our valuable institutions, often at his own personal cost and personal exertion.

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As for Mr. Wentworth's vulgar charges, they were made when he was a young man, and he dared not, when called upon, acknowledge the authorship of them; a matter difficult to prove, as I believe the work was published in England. Thus from his concealment he cast filth upon a man he had not the manliness to meet face to face.

As the Editor of a periodical, you are no doubt responsible for such articles as reflect upon the character of individuals, and more especially of the dead. I must therefore leave it to your own sense of honour, as a Minister of Religion and as an Editor, whether, after a careful examination of the testimonies placed within your reach (including the Public Meeting at Parramatta), you will give insertion to this letter, and when you obtain "more light" and may be better instructed, do justice to the dead.

I confine myself entirely to the reputation of my deceased friend. The living bishop I know nothing of save as a boy. I have spoken, seeing that I should be acting unjustly both towards the deceased and to his family if I allowed the revivification of refuted calumnies, however unintentional of ill-will, to pass unnoticed.

Richard Sadleir, R.N.

[Lieutenant Sadleir is welcome to the space we have accorded to his com-munication. He is wrong, however, in accusing us of having revived the imputations against the character of his deceased friend, which, as he says, were long ago conclusively disproved. For in the latest History of Australia published—that by Mr. S. Bennett—the charges in question are fully and, as we think, fairly discussed; the author's verdict being that the late Rev. S. Marsden "was neither such a saint as his friends painted him, nor such a sinner as his enemies professed to believe." This decision is, in our opinion, not very far from the truth. But whether it is or not, the friends of the new bishop were guilty of a very foolish thing in attempting to force him into notice by persistently trumpeting forth, irrespective of Dr. Marsden's own qualifications for the episcopal office, the problematical virtues of his ancestor. Our reflection, therefore, was not upon the memory of the dead, but upon the fawning sycophancy of the living. To any of the late Dr. Marsden's relatives, whom our remarks may have pained, we willingly tender our regrets.—Ed. A. F. R. P.]