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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

The Missionaries

The Missionaries.

The first missionary, Marsden, landed in the Bay of Islands in December, 1814; but although he and the other missionaries who followed him were treated kindly by the natives, for a long time their preaching was attended with but scant success. In six years they had not made a single convert. In 1825 the Rev. Henry Williams stated that the natives were "as insensible to the necessity of redemption as brutes," and in 1829 the Wesleyan Mission contemplated withdrawing their establishment from want of success.

But when Christianity did take root it grew rapidly, and soon after 1830 the efforts of the missionaries seemed to be rewarded with success. In 1838 the Church Missionary Society had 54 schools, attended by 1431 scholars; 2476 persons attended church, and 178 were communicants; and as the Wesleyan missionaries had 1000 scholars and church-goers, the Christians at that era numbered 4000 souls. This was the result of twenty years' labour and the expenditure of £200,000.

If the missionaries in the early days were unsuccessful in making converts, they were, at least, eminently successful in acquiring land. In fact such facilities did they find in purchasing it, they being at first almost the sole buyers, that, having acquired some hundreds of thousands of acres, they professed to fear lest unscrupulous Europeans might buy up the whole country, and reduce the natives to beggary. To prevent this dire misfortune—or at least such was the reason alleged—in December, 1835, the Rev. Henry Williams forwarded "a deed of trust of land belonging to natives" to the Governor of New South Wales, and to the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, with a request that the missionaries at the Bay of Islands might be appointed trustees for all the lands of New Zealand, in order to "preserve it from the intrigues of designing men." As a matter of course, neither the Governor nor the Church Missionary Society would sanction any such arrangement.

Even as late as 1860, we find a writer in the long defunct New Zealand Magazine stating of the Auckland country districts "The country about is held in large tracts—thousands of acres—by the old missionaries or their immediate descendants, who, in most cases, remind one of the fable of the 'dog in the manger,' neither using the land themselves, nor allowing others to do so. It is a great misfortune to the colony, and a great disgrace to the Missionary Society that such a state of land-grasping should have been allowed to grow up. This state of things keeps back the district, both by the semi-preoccupation of the lands, and the peculiar shortsighted and antiquated ideas of the semi-occupiers, who appear imbued with a horror of all change, and above all things, of new settlers—or, as they call them, intruders. Instead of looking upon the settlement of neighbouring lands as an advantage, giving a value to their otherwise useless acres, they consider each lot of land taken up and actually occupied as the deprivation of so much feeding ground for their cattle."