It has been mentioned that the island of Australia was considered as an archdeaconry of the see of Calcutta. This enormous island, first discovered in 1607 by Luis de Torres, and inhabited only by...savages, appeared to the Government of George III a convenient spot for forming a penal settlement; and in 1787 the first convict ships carried out an instalment from the English jails to New South Wales, where the city of Sydney was founded by Governor Phillip.
As usual in those days, the provision made for the moral or religious training of this felon population was lamentably and even absurdly deficient; for it seemed to be considered, that so long as the criminals were safe out of England, it did not greatly matter to her what became of them. But the power of grace is sure to work sooner or later wherever the Christian name has been carried, and a holy man rose up, not only to fight hard with the mass of corruption in Australia, but to carry on the light to the more distant shores of the Southern Ocean.
This good man, Samuel Marsden, was the son of a small farmer at Farsley, near Calverley, in Yorkshire, and was educated at the free Grammar School at Hull by Dr. Joseph Milner, whose Church History used to be a standard book in the early part of this century. He began his career as a tradesman at Leeds, but his school influences had given him higher aspirations; and a body termed the Elland Society, whose object was to educate young men of small means and suitable character for the ministry, and whose chief supporters were Wilberforce, Simeon, and Thornton, selected him as one of their scholars, and placed him at St. John's College, Cambridge. He had not even taken his degree when, to his surprise, he was offered a chaplaincy in New South Wales! The post was no doubt a difficult one to fill,—for who would willingly undertake to be one of two clergymen sent to labour among an untamed multitude of criminals?—and Mr. Wilberforce was, no doubt, glad to suggest a young man so blameless and full of zeal, and of whom, from personal observation at Cambridge, Mr. Simeon had so high an opinion.
Samuel Marsden wished to decline it at first; but finding that no one else would come forward to undertake the charge, he accepted it; and in the spring of 1793 he was ordained, and married, being then nearly twenty-nine years of age. His wife, Elizabeth Tristan, was thoroughly worthy of him, and ruled his house admirably, never calling him back from any duty, but so managing that his open-handed charity never brought him into difficulties. They were obliged to take their passage in a convict ship, which was to sail from Hull. Marsden was engaged to preach in a church near the harbour, and was just about to enter the pulpit when the signal-gun was fired to summon the passengers on board. He took off his gown, gave his arm to his bride at her pew door, and walked to the beach, the whole congregation streaming out after them down to the boat, where the young clergyman stood for a few moments ere pushing off, to give his parting benedictions.
The ship went round to Portsmouth to receive her load of convicts; and while she was lying there, Marsden visited the Isle of Wight, and one Sunday preached in Brading Church. The effect of his sermon in touching the heart of one young woman was long remembered, in consequence of a memoir of her, entitled "The Dairyman's Daughter," which was drawn up after her death by the clergyman of her parish, the Rev. Legh Richmond.
It was as trying a voyage as Henry Martyn's, except that even less was to be expected from his shipmates. The captain was unwilling to allow prayers to be read even on Sunday, saying he had never known a religious sailor; and though, after a time, Mr. Marsden prevailed, he never felt himself making much impression for good. One of his books on the voyage was the Life of David Brainerd, that torch of missionaries, and who proved the example which served to stir Mr. Marsden to look beyond his own immediate field of labour, severe though that was, and unflinching as was his toil.
His arrival at Paramatta, his new home, was in the March of 1794, when the convict system had prevailed about seven years, and had been sufficient to form a population disgraceful to human nature. None of those endeavours to reclaim the prisoner which now prevail had then been attempted, and jails were schools and hotbeds of crime, whence the transported were sent forth to corrupt each other more and more on board ship; and then, though employed on Government works or assigned to free settlers as servants, so soon as they had worked out their time of servitude they were let loose to live after their own will.
Such as had any capacity for steady industry soon made their fortunes on the parcels of land allotted to them by Government, to which they added by purchase; and these persons, by the influence of wealth and property, rose into colonial rank and authority, though without any such real training in the sense of uprightness or morality as could fit them for the posts they occupied. The least tainted by crime were the Irish, who had been deported by wholesale after the rebellion, some without even a form of trial, but these were idle and prone to violence; while of the regular convicts there was a large proportion addicted to every brutality that vice could conceive, and their numbers were continually being recruited by fresh shiploads after the assizes at home. The only attempt at securing order and tolerable safety was by visiting every offence, even the slightest, of which a convict was accused in a court of justice, with the most unrelenting severity; and this, of course, had the effect of further brutalizing these felon people, making them reckless of the deeds they committed, and often driving them to become bush-rangers—outlawed wild men of the woods—a terror to the colony. A powerful military force was kept up to repress these wretched beings by physical force, but of moral training there was only what was afforded by the openings for industry in a new country, and religious teaching was represented by—two chaplains, for convicts, soldiers, settlers, and all! No wonder that the senior soon broke down under the hopeless toil of such a position, and left the junior to struggle with it alone. And nobly he did struggle! Wilberforce had made a wise choice of a man in the prime of youth, whose bullet-headed portrait speaks of the most dogged determination, with nerves, health, and weight enough to contend for a whole lifetime with the horrible depravity around him—the only clergyman, and with three settlements far apart dependent on his ministry. And in the outset he was severely tried by domestic sorrows; for his eldest son, at two years old, was thrown out of his mother's arms by a jolt to the carriage over the rough road, and killed on the spot; and a younger child, who was shortly after left at home from dread of a similar accident, was allowed by its attendant to stray into the kitchen, where it fell backwards into a pan of boiling water and was fatally scalded.
The father bore these calamities as one who had steadfast faith and resignation—"one who felt much and said little." The demands on his time, indeed, left him no leisure for giving way to grief. Spiritual matters were not all that came upon him. In the utter lack of conscientious men to perform the functions of the magistracy, he was at once appointed to the bench; nor, indeed, was there the same feeling in England then as now against the combination of the clergyman and justice of the peace. The most exemplary parish priests viewed it as a duty to administer justice in their villages; and the first, and till quite recently the sole manual of prayers to be used with prisoners, was the production of one of these clerical magistrates. A Yorkshire farmer's son could not be expected to know much about law, but good sense, uprightness, perception of justice, and intense determination, he had, as well as Christian humanity; and in these he was superior to any of his colleagues on the Paramatta bench, whom he was continually striving to raise to some comprehension of the commonest rules of justice, mercy, and decency; and in this, after a long course of years, he in some measure succeeded; but not till after his strong hand, impartial justice, and hatred of vice, had made him enemies among all parties; and it is only too probable that his secular authority, though always nobly wielded, impeded rather than otherwise his pastoral influence.
His farming education served him well when he received a grant of land, and of thirteen convicts to bring it into order. It was part of his payment, almost indispensable for procuring to his family the necessaries of life, and it gave him, besides, the means of imparting instruction in honest labour. His property became the model farm of New South Wales, and the profits afforded him the means of establishing the schools, benevolent institutions, and missions, for which there were few, if any purses to draw upon. He won himself respect on all sides, especially from the Governor of the colony, Captain King, a hasty, violent, but good-hearted man, with whom more than once he had misunderstandings, but such as were made up again. On one of these occasions, the chaplain's advice was asked by the Governor, and promised on condition that he might speak as to a private individual. So, when they met, Mr. Marsden locked the door, and, in plain and forcible terms, gave Captain King a thoroughgoing remonstrance on the faults of Governor King, which was taken in perfect good part.
Nevertheless, the whole construction of Society was so atrocious, that nothing could effect any improvement but interference from higher authority. The Court of Judicature in New South Wales was the most shamelessly corrupt and abandoned in existence, and a rebellious spirit broke out which imperilled the military authority of the Governor. Mr. Marsden saw no hope, except in laying a full statement in person before the home Government; and therefore, at the end of fourteen years, when Governor King was about to return home, he resolved to go himself, and make a strong personal representation to Government. The two families sailed in the same ship, the Buffalo, which proved to be leaky; and, when a heavy gale was expected, it was proposed that the passengers should quit her, and take refuge in a stronger vessel; but Mrs. King was too unwell to be moved, and Mrs. Marsden would not leave her, so that the proposal was abandoned, and most providentially, for the ship that had been thought secure was lost in the night and never seen more!
The voyage was a slow one; and the first thing Mr. Marsden heard on arriving was, that the insurrection he had expected had actually broken out. This rendered Lord Castlereagh, then Colonial Secretary, the more anxious to obtain the advice of a sensible, clear-headed man like Samuel Marsden, and he was encouraged to explain his views. First, he was anxious for whatever would tend to reform the convicts; and having observed that the most respectable of these were such as had married, or whose wives had come out to them, he begged that, for the future, the families of the married men might be sent out with them. This was refused; but his representation that the convicts ought to be instructed in trades was attended to, when he showed that, by this means, the whole expense of their clothing might be saved.
He had discerned the wonderful capacities of Australia for sheep farming, and having brought home some wool, and found it much approved by the manufacturers, he thereupon ventured to petition the King for a couple of merino sheep from the royal farm at Windsor, to improve the breed. The request was after "Farmer George's" own heart; he gave five, and thus Mr. Marsden did the work of agricultural improvement of the Benedictines of old. He also obtained that three more clergymen and three schoolmasters should be sent out; and he strove hard for other institutions, chiefly for the reformation of the female convicts, which he could not at the time get carried out. He likewise conducted an immense correspondence on behalf of persons who had not found any other means of communicating with their homes; and, at the same time, he became personally acquainted with Wilberforce, and many others of the supporters of the cause of religion.
Above all, it was in this visit to England that Mr. Marsden laid the foundations of the missions to New Zealand, and prepared to become the apostle of the Maori race. These great islands of New Zealand had been discovered and named by Tasman in 1642, and first visited by Captain Cook in 1769. He found them inhabited by a brave, high-spirited, and quick-witted set of natives, with as large a proportion of the fine qualities sometimes found in a wild race as ever savages possessed, but their tribes continually at war, and the custom of cannibalism prevailing: he had been on friendly terms with them, and presented them with pigs, fowls, and potatoes—no small boon in a land where there was no quadruped bigger than a rat, and very few esculent vegetables.
From this time, whalers occasionally stopped to take in water, &c., and kept up a sort of intercourse with the Maori, sometimes amiable, and resulting in the natives taking voyages on board the vessels, but sometimes quarrelsome, and characterized by mutual outrages, when, if a white man were made prisoner, he was sure to be killed and eaten, to serve as a sort of triumphal and sacrificial banquet.
Nevertheless, it was plain that these Maories were of a much higher type of humanity than the Australian natives, whom Mr. Marsden had found so far entirely unteachable and untameable, but for whom he was trying to establish some plan of training and protection. Such a spirit of curiosity and enterprise possessed some of the New Zealand chieftains, that they would come on visits to Australia, and on these occasions Mr. Marsden always gave them a welcome at his parsonage at Paramatta. At one time there were thirty staying there, over whom he had great influence. Once, when he was absent from home, the nephew of one of the chiefs died, and his uncle immediately prepared to sacrifice a slave; nor could Mrs. Marsden prevent it, otherwise than by hiding the intended victim till her husband came home, who made the chief understand that it was not to be done, though the man continued to lament that his nephew was deprived of his proper attendant in the other world, and seemed afraid to return home, lest the father of the youth should reproach him with the omission.
Mr. Marsden made known all that he had been able to gather of the promising nature of the field of labour in New Zealand, and sought aid from the Church Missionary Society, since the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was then unable to reach beyond the colonies. The almost universal indifference of the upper classes to missionary labour was terribly crippling in the matter of means; and perhaps the fact was that the underbred class of agents of the Societies stirred up by the example of Marshman and Carey, together with the vulgarly-sensational appeals against which Ward's good taste so strongly protested, greatly tended to make them incredulous. It was not till the statements of scholars and gentlemen, like Henry Martyn and Bishop Heber, became generally known, that the work was looked on without sarcasm, provoked by vulgarity, even where there was great devotion.
No clergyman could be found to undertake the mission to New Zealand; but William Hall and John King, two laymen, undertook to act as pioneers, with instructions to establish family worship, converse on religion with the natives, and instruct their children; trying, at the same time, to show the benefits of civilization, but to take care it was not confounded with Christianity.
These two good men, who were presently followed by Thomas Kendall, sailed in the same ship with Mr. Marsden, when, in August 1809, he paid his last farewell to his native land, and sailed in the Ann for New South Wales. Strange to say, this very ship contained a Maori, on his return home! He was a young chief named Duaterra, who had, in a spirit of adventure, embarked on board a whaler named the Argo, and worked as a sailor for six months, till the captain, having no further occasion for his services, put him ashore at Port Jackson, without payment or friends. However, he embarked in another whaler, and worked his way home, but soon was on board of a third English ship, the Santa Anna, in search of seal-skins, and having conceived a great desire to see the country whence these vessels came forth, and to know its chief, he engaged to come to England in it, the captain and sailors not scrupling to promise him an introduction to King George. When the Santa Anna reached England, the crew had grown tired of him, used him roughly and harshly, and tried to put him off his pertinacious recollection of the promise of seeing the king, by telling him that King George's house could not be found; while he was worked beyond his strength, and scarcely ever suffered to go on shore. When, in fifteen days, the cargo was all discharged, the captain put him on board the Ann, to be taken back to Australia, and when he asked for his wages, to provide some clothing, told him that the owner of the ship would give him two muskets when he should reach Port Jackson.
The poor fellow was little likely to reach it, for lung disease, the great foe of the Maori, had set in; and he was in a pitiable condition when Mr. Marsden, by chance, remarked his brown face on the forecastle, and inquired into his history, which was confirmed by the master of the Ann, and was really only a specimen of a sailor's vague promises, and incapacity to understand that a dark skin ought to be treated with the same justice as a white one. Duaterra was a man of much intelligence, and even under these most unfavourable circumstances had been greatly impressed with the civilization of England, and was so desirous of improvement that, on arriving at Port Jackson, Mr. Marsden took him to his farm, where he applied eagerly to the learning of husbandry.
Duaterra was not the only Maori ill-treated by British sailors. Another chief having been used in like manner, or worse, on board the Boyd, bided his time till the ship was in the Bay of Islands, and then brought his tribe, armed with clubs and hatchets, to revenge his sufferings. They overpowered the crew, slaughtered and feasted upon them, burning the ship, and only retaining as captives two women and a boy. Nevertheless, Hall and King were ready to take the missionaries to this dangerous spot, but Mr. Marsden thought it best to give time for the passions thus excited to cool down.
Meantime Governor Macquarie had come out to take charge of New South Wales. He was a man of great determination and despotic will, and carried out many regulations that were of exceeding benefit to the colony, but he did not know the limits of his authority, dealt with the chaplains as with subordinate officials, and sometimes met with staunch opposition from the sturdy Yorkshireman, his senior chaplain, so that they were in a state of almost constant feud throughout his government, although at the end of his career he bore the strongest testimony to the merits of the only man who durst resist him. The old game of Ambrose and Theodosius, Hildebrand and Henry, Becket and Plantagenet, has to be played over and over again, wherever the State refuses to understand that spiritual matters lie beyond its grasp; and when Governor Macquarie prescribed the doctrines to be preached and the hymns to be used in the churches, and commanded the most unsuitable secular notices to be promulgated by the clergy, if Mr. Marsden had not resisted the Church would have been absolutely degraded. When convicts of wealth and station, but still leading most vicious lives, were raised to the magistrates' bench, Mr. Marsden could not but refuse to associate or act with them, and even tendered his resignation of the magistracy, but Macquarie would not accept it. How uncompromising these sermons were is evidenced by an anecdote of a man, who, being stung to the quick, fancied that the words had been individually aimed at him, and determined to be revenged. Accordingly, as soon as he saw the chaplain riding near a piece of water he jumped in, and when Mr. Marsden at once sprung after him, did his utmost to drown his intended deliverer; but after a violent struggle the Yorkshire muscles prevailed, and the man was dragged out, so startled by the shock that he confessed his intention, and, under the counsel he had so fiercely spurned at first, became truly penitent, and warmly attached to Mr. Marsden, whose service he ultimately entered.
The square short face and sturdy form of Samuel Marsden show the force, vigour, and determination of his nature, which told on beast as well as man. On the road between Sydney and Paramatta, he used to let the reins lie loose on the splash-board of his gig and read, saying that "the horse that could not keep itself up was not worth driving," and though one of the pair he usually drove was unmanageable in other hands, nothing ever went amiss with it when it went out with its master. Such a spirit of determination produced an impress even on those who opposed him most, and many works were carried out in the teeth of the difficulties thrown in their way; such as the erection of schools, of a factory for the reception of the female convicts, and of a sort of model farm, where it was intended to collect, tame, and civilize the aborigines. This was at first planned between the governor and chaplain, but when it was ready Marsden was under Colonel Macquarie's displeasure, and was therefore excluded from all share in the management, though the site was actually in his own parish of Paramatta. The experiment was a failure...
Governor Macquarie was an iron-handed man, who could not brook opposition, or endure any scheme that did not originate with himself. So when Mr. Marsden laid before him a project for diminishing the appalling misery and vice in which the utter neglect of Government left the female convicts, he acknowledged the letter, but did not act upon it. After waiting eighteen months for him to take some measure, the chaplain sent a statement of the condition of these poor creatures to the Colonial Office; it was laid before Parliament, and Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary, sent a letter of inquiry to the Governor. Macquarie's fury was intense on finding that the chaplain had dared to look above and beyond him; and he gave a willing encouragement to whatever resisted the attempts of Marsden at establishing some sense of religion and morality. After refusing to accept his resignation of his post as a magistrate, he dismissed him ignominiously, and all the underlings of Government knew that any attack from them would be regarded with favour. A vile and slanderous letter, full of infamous libels, not only against Samuel Marsden, as a man and a Christian priest, but against the missionaries, and signed "Philofree," appeared in the Sydney Herald, the Government paper, and was traced to Macquarie's own secretary! The libel was such that Mr. Marsden felt it due to his cause to bring an action against the publisher, and in spite of the prejudice against him, after a trial of three days, he gained a complete victory and damages of £200; but the newspaper published such a false and scandalous report of the trial that he was obliged a second time to prosecute, and again obtained a verdict in his favour.
The officers of the 46th Regiment, on leaving the colony, presented him with a testimonial, and an address most gratifying, amid the general obloquy, and showing a feeling most honourable to themselves. Every one who cared for the cause of virtue at home, especially Wilberforce, Simeon, and Mrs. Fry, wrote encouraging letters to him; and Lord Bathurst, on receiving a despatch from Macquarie, full of charges against the chaplain as man, magistrate, and minister, sent out a commission of inquiry, which, coming with fresh eyes from England, was horrified at the abuses to which the Australian world was accustomed, found every word of Mr. Marsden's perfectly justified, and at last extracted the following confession from Colonel Macquarie: "The Governor admits that Mr. Marsden's manner to him has been constantly civil and accommodating, and that nothing in his manner could provoke the Governor's warmth. The Governor admits his qualifications, his activity, and his un-remitting vigilance as a magistrate, and in society his cheerful disposition and readiness to please." The report of this commission resulted, among other more important consequences, in the unsolicited grant of £400 a year additional stipend to Mr. Marsden, "in consideration of his long, laborious, and praiseworthy exertions in behalf of religion and morality." This was only fitting compensation on the part of Government, for the accusation of avarice had brought to light how many schools and asylums, the proper work of the Government, had been built, and were being maintained, out of the proceeds of the farm which had prospered so excellently.
As long as Macquarie continued in office, Mr. Marsden was out of favour, but Sir Thomas Brisbane, who came out in 1821, was friendly with him, and knew his value, insisting on his returning to the bench of magistrates. He did all he could to avoid it, till the judges and almost every one in the colony so urged him to accept that he yielded; but in 1824 a case occurred in which a rich and insolent culprit was severely punished by the Paramatta bench, and contrived to raise such an outrageous storm that Sir Thomas Brisbane, who, if better disposed, was more timid than his predecessor, dismissed the whole five magistrates. The offender's wish had been merely to overthrow Mr. Marsden, but this was found impossible. The whole fury of the colony again rose against this fearless man, and accusations absolutely absurd were trumped up. One was that he allowed his windmill to work on Sunday! The fact turned out to be, when investigated, that somebody had once seen the sails turning on a Sunday, some time before Mr. Marsden had purchased the land on which the mill stood. A real act of persecution affected him more seriously, as it was the ruin of another person in whom he was interested. There was an old regulation forbidding the hiring out of convicts who were assigned to residents as domestic servants, but this had been virtually repealed by another under Macquarie, permitting such hiring out on the owners complying with certain rules. These had been duly attended to by Mr. Marsden in the case of one James Ring, a plumber and glazier, who, as a reward for good conduct, was allowed to go out to work in Paramatta for his own profit. Being ill-used and beaten by another servant, he summoned the man before the bench of magistrates, but these, who had been put in when Mr. Marsden and his colleagues were dismissed, immediately committed Ring to jail for being at large. His master went to demand his release, showing that the rules had been observed, but the magistrates replied by levying a fine of two-and-sixpence for every day that Ring had been at work, and as Marsden did not offer to pay, they sent a convict constable to his house to seize property to that amount, while poor Ring himself was sent to work in irons with the penal gang; though at that very moment one of the magistrates had a servant, a tailor, at work in Mr. Marsden's house; and another person had two hired convicts of another of these justices employed at his home. In fact, it was the only sentence of the kind ever inflicted, yet Sir Thomas Brisbane was afraid to interfere; whereupon Mr. Marsden caused his case to be tried before the Supreme Court, and so completely proved it, that restitution of the illegal fine was commanded, though the spirit of persecution was still shown in the absurdly small sum of damages allotted to him. What was worse was that he could not procure the release of Ring, for while he was sending an appeal to England the unhappy man lost patience, ran away from the gang where he was working in irons on the roads, and escaped to New Zealand, but was never heard of more. Had he but borne with his misery a little longer he would have been restored to his kind master, for a commission came out which a second time resulted in the complete triumph of Mr. Marsden, and the entire discomfiture of his persecutors.
We have gone through the history of his home troubles before entering on the part that concerned his missionary labours. It is a painful picture, but the staunch firmness that never failed to "boldly rebuke vice," is too essential a part of the picture to be passed over. The Apostle of New Zealand was the Baptist of the Herods of Australia. We return to the year 1816, when, after some months' training in agriculture at Mr. Marsden's farm, Duaterra had sailed for his home, but only again to suffer from the perfidy of the master of the ship. The ordinary English mind seemed incapable of perceiving that any faith need be kept with a dark-coloured man, and Duaterra was defrauded of his share of the oil procured from the whales he had helped to catch, carried past his own shores, only two miles from the pah where the master had engaged to land him, and turned adrift in the then uninhabited Norfolk Island, where a whaler picked him up almost starved, and brought him back to Australia. However, Mr. Marsden found another ship, which did fulfil its engagements, and Duaterra was at last set ashore in the Bay of Islands, close to the northern point of New Zealand, with a supply of wheat which Mr. Marsden had given him.
Two years had passed, and Mr. Marsden had been trying to procure from the Society at home a mission ship to carry teachers to the islands, visit them, and supply their wants there, but he had not as yet succeeded, and he therefore decided on purchasing a small one from Australia at his own expense. This was the Active the first of the mission vessels that now bear the Cross in several quarters of the globe. In her Hall and King sailed, and Mr. Marsden would have accompanied them but for the express prohibition of Governor Macquarie, who, little as he loved his senior chaplain, did not choose to lose him on what he regarded as a scheme of almost fanatic folly. The two teachers were not to settle on shore, nor even to sleep there, but they were to visit Duaterra, reconnoitre the ground, and see whether it would be possible to settle there as they had at first proposed.
To their delight, Duaterra came eagerly to meet them, very anxious for their assistance with his corn. He had shown it to his tribe, telling them that hence came the bread and biscuit they had eaten in English ships, and great had been their disappointment when neither the ear nor the root of the wheat proved at all like these articles. However, he had been successful in his farmer operations, but was entirely puzzled by those of the miller, only knowing that the grain ought to be ground, and unable to contrive it, though he had borrowed a coffee-mill from a trading vessel. When the new comers produced a hand-mill he was delighted. His kindred, to whom he had been a laughing-stock for averring that biscuit had any connection with his new grass, crowded round incredulously to watch the mill, showed unbounded amazement as the white flour streamed forth, and when a cake was hastily made and baked in a frying-pan they leapt about shouting and dancing for joy. Duaterra, his uncle Hunghi, a very powerful chief, and five more, accepted an invitation to come and confer with Mr. Marsden, and the Active brought them back to New South Wales. They were very anxious for the benefits which they hoped to derive from intercourse with the whites, and readily undertook to secure Hall and King from all danger. Even Governor Macquarie was so far satisfied that he consented to let Mr. Marsden go out and arrange the new settlement, to which he presented two cows and a bull. These, with three horses, and some sheep and poultry, were embarked on board the Active, with a motley collection of passengers, the eight Maories, the three missionaries with their wives and children, a sawyer, a smith, Mr. Marsden, and another gentleman named John Lydiard Nicholas, the master of the vessel, his wife, son, and crew, which included two Tahitians, and lastly a runaway convict who had secreted himself on board. Their arrival might have been rendered dangerous by the conduct of a whaling crew at Wangaroa, in the northern island of New Zealand, who, by way of retaliation for the massacre of the Boyd's ship-company, had murdered a chief named Tippahee with all his family, without waiting to find out whether he had been concerned in the slaughter. Nevertheless, these brave men were ready to dare to the utmost, and the fame of Mr. Marsden, "the friend of the Maori," had preceded him, and the Active was welcomed with presents of fish and visits from the natives.
They found that Tippahee's people at Wangaroa had accused the tribe of the Bay of Islands of leading the English to murder their chief, that there was in consequence a deadly feud, and that several desperate battles had been fought. Marsden knew that if he came as the friend of Duaterra and his tribe alone, party spirit would entirely alienate the rest of the islanders, and he therefore determined at once to prove that he came not as the ally of one party, but as the friend of both. He therefore determined to prove to the Wangaroans his confidence in them by not only landing among them unarmed, but actually spending the night among them. His friend Mr. Nicholas accompanied him in this, one of the most intrepid actions ever performed, when it is remembered that this tribe consisted of the cannibals who had eaten his own countrymen, and had of late been freshly provoked. The two gentlemen supped in Hunghi's hut on potatoes and fish, and then quietly walked over to the hostile camp, where they met with a friendly welcome.
One of the natives who had sailed in an English vessel was able to interpret, and with his assistance Mr. Marsden explained the purpose of the missionaries, and the desirableness of peace. Maories appreciate being spoken to at length and with due respect, and they listened politely, making speeches in their own fashion in return, until towards eleven, when most had gone to rest. The two Englishmen wrapped themselves in their great coats and lay down, the interpreter bidding them lie near him. It was a clear night, countless stars shining above, the sea in front smooth, all around a forest of spears stuck upright in the earth, and on the ground the multitude of human beings in their scanty loose garb of tapa cloth lying fast asleep, while the man who had come as an apostle to them spent the night in thought and prayer. Such a scene can never be forgotten!
In the morning the ship's boat came to fetch him off, and he took the chiefs back with him to the ship to receive presents and be introduced to those who were to live among them. There was also a formal reconciliation with Duaterra and his tribe, and the wondering Maories took their travelled brother into high estimation when they really beheld the animals they had imagined to be mere creations of his fancy, and were specially amazed at the sight of Mr. Marsden mounted on horseback.
Duaterra, meantime, of his own accord, was making preparations for the first Sunday service held in New Zealand. It was likewise the Christmas Day of 1815, and Mr. Marsden felt it a most appropriate moment for his first proclamation of the good tidings of great joy among this most distant of the nations. Duaterra's ideas of a church consisted in enclosing about half an acre of land with a fence, and erecting in the midst a reading-desk three feet, and a pulpit six feet high, both made out of canoes, covered with either black native cloth or some canvas he had brought from Port Jackson, and ranging near them some bottoms of old canoes, as seats for the English part of the congregation, and on the hill above he hoisted, of his own accord, the British flag.
On the Sunday morning Duaterra, his uncle, and Koro Koro, another chief who had been in Australia, all appeared in regimentals given them by Governor Macquarie, swords by their sides, and switches in their hands, and all their men drawn up behind them. When the English had entered, the chiefs arranged their tribes, and Mr. Marsden began by singing the Old Hundredth Psalm, the first note of praise to the Creator that ever rung from the bays and rocks of New Zealand. Then he went through the Christmas Day service, his twenty-two English joining in it, and Koro Koro making signs with his switch to the natives when to stand and when to sit. Mr. Marsden ended with a sermon on the Angelic greeting, and when the natives complained that they could not understand, Duaterra promised to explain afterwards, and this he performed—it may be feared, after a fashion of his own, for as yet he was very ignorant, although very acute.
Mr. Marsden's principle was not that of Eliot, to begin with the faith, then come to civilization. He thought that the benefits of civilization would lead to the acceptance of the faith; and, besides, he had only laymen to act as teachers; and, as his system was that of the Church, he could only employ them in laying foundations, in preparing instead of admitting converts, while his own duties only permitted of his making flying visits. So he established his settlers to show the benefits of peace, industry, and morality, and thus bring the natives to look higher. Seed, tools, clothing, he assisted them in procuring and using, but his smith was expressly forbidden ever to make or repair any warlike weapon, or the settlers ever to barter muskets or powder for any possession of whatever value with the natives. He likewise strove, in his conversations with the chiefs, to show the evils of their vices in such a manner as their shrewd minds could enter into, trying to make them see the disgrace and horror of cannibalism, and the inconveniences of polygamy, thus hoping to raise their standard.
In order that the mission settlement might have some security, he purchased a plot of land in the name of the Church Missionary Society, drawing up a regular deed of sale, to which his signature was affixed, together with a likeness of the tattooed pattern of the Maori chieftain's face. Duaterra walked about with him in delight, talking of the time when the church should be built, and planning the spot; but the poor fellow had probably never recovered the injury his constitution had suffered, for he fell ill, and his state was soon hopeless. It was a great grief to Mr. Marsden, who had reckoned much on his assistance, and found it hard to acquiesce in the will of Providence, more especially as the poor young man was not yet so entirely a Christian as to warrant baptizing him. He begged Mr. Marsden to pray with him, but he kept his heathen priest at hand, and his mind was tossed to and fro between the new truth and the old superstition. In this state Mr. Marsden was forced to leave him, four days before his death, when Kendall, who visited him to the last, was shocked at the savage manner in which his relatives gashed themselves, to show their grief, and far more when his favourite wife stole out and hung herself, according to a frequent custom, regarded as rather honourable than otherwise!
Soon after his death fresh wars broke out, and a hostile tribe encamped near the mission settlement, loudly threatening to kill and devour the inhabitants, who, for months together, and to keep watch day and night, put their children to bed in their clothes ready for instant flight, and had their boat always afloat with oars and sails; but they remained steadfast, and the danger passed over.
The Active plied backwards and forwards, supplying them with the necessaries of life, and bringing guests to the farm at Paramatta, where Mr. Marsden provided instruction for them. Two, named Tooi and Teterree, were sent in charge of Mr. Nicholas to visit England in a King's ship, where they had learnt to speak English tolerably, and to follow the customs of civilized society. They were gentle and intelligent, and eager to learn, but no one could reckon on what would interest or excite them. They were taken to see St. Paul's Cathedral, which did not seem to strike them at all; but, as they were walking along Fleet Street, they came to a sudden stand before a hairdresser's shop, screaming out, "Women, women," as they beheld the display of waxen busts, which they thought did credit to the Pakeha, or English, style of preserving dried human heads! Like Duaterra, their great anxiety was to see King George; but, in 1817, the apology recorded in Teterree's English letter was only too true,—"I never see the King of England, he very poorly; and Queen Charlotte very poorly too."
On their return to Paramatta, Mr. Marsden made a second visit to New Zealand, taking them back, and also going to install some fresh missionaries and mechanics on a new settlement. There was great competition among the chiefs; for the possession of a Pakeha, or Englishman, was greatly coveted as a means of bringing the material good things of life, and Mr. Marsden was eagerly assured that there was no danger of the English being killed and eaten, since the Maori flesh was much sweeter, because the whites ate so much salt. There was as yet no convert, but Mr. Marsden's resolution by no means failed him; he believed—and he was right—that kindness, truth, and uprightness, in those who could confer temporal benefits, would, in time, lead these intelligent men to appreciate the spiritual blessings that were offered to them.
Presents of hoes, with which to plant the sweet potato, were greatly appreciated. Hunghi's head wife was working away with a wooden spade, though perfectly blind, and was delighted with the new instrument. Indeed, Hunghi was one of the most eager friends of the mission, though the splendidly tattooed heads of his enemies decorated his abode, and he defended cannibalism, on the ground that animals preyed upon one another, and that the gods devoured each other. His manners had all the high-bred courtesy that marked the chief, and he was a noble-looking creature, full of native majesty and gentleness. Every hope was entertained of him, and he was sent, in 1820, to visit England, where he had an interview with George IV., and received presents of weapons from him. But the moral Hunghi brought home was, "There is but one king in England. There shall be but one in New Zealand." And this consummation he endeavoured to bring about by challenging a hostile chief whom he met on his way back from Sydney to New Zealand. He gained the battle, by arranging his men in the form of a wedge, and likewise by the number of muskets with which he was able to arm them. When the chief himself fell by his hand, he drank his fresh blood, and devoured his eye, in the belief that it thus became a star in the firmament, and conferred glory on himself; and the whole battle-field was covered with the ovens in which his followers cooked the flesh of the prisoners whom they did not keep as slaves!
This horrible scene took place while Mr. Marsden was in Australia, but he could hardly have prevented it. Probably the chief's ferocity, so long repressed, was in a state of reaction; for, though the missionaries were not molested, their efforts seemed lost. Hunghi declared that he wished his children to learn to fight, not to read; and the Maoris insisted on being paid for any service to the missionaries in firearms and powder. When this was refused they became insolent and mischievous, intruding into the houses, demanding food, breaking down the fences, and stealing whatever they could seize; and there was reason to fear that any excitement might lead to absolute danger. In this crisis some of the missionaries failed, sold ammunition, and otherwise were wanting in the testimony they were intended to maintain. The tidings determined Mr. Marsden on making a fourth visit to New Zealand and this time he was able to take with him a clergyman, the Rev. Henry Williams, who lived to become Bishop of a Maori district. It was nine years since the first landing there, and, in spite of all disappointments, he found many of the natives much improved, and the friendly chiefs quite able to understand his prohibition against the sale of powder, although they were at first inclined to be angry at his having sent home a missionary on that account. The other missionaries expressed repentance for their errors, but he was not thoroughly satisfied with them, though allowing much for their isolation from Christian society and ordinances.
A Wesleyan mission had been established at Wangaroa, which he visited and assisted, and finding Mr. Leigh, the chief minister, very ill, offered him a passage to Sydney for advice, but this ship had scarcely weighed anchor before a great storm came on; the ship was lost, and the crew and passengers had to land in boats, and return for two months longer before a ship could be found to bring them home, and in this time he did all in his power to bring the Maories to agree to some settled form of government under a single chief; but though any chief, especially Hunghi, was quite willing to be that one, nobody would be anything secondary, and thus the project failed. He also set the missionaries the task of endeavouring to collect a fixed vocabulary and grammar, which might be available in future translations. The great kindness shown him at his shipwreck had greatly touched his heart, especially in contrast with the usage he was meeting with in Australia, for this was in the height of the persecution about Ring, which detained him at home for more than two years. During this time Mr. Williams was joined by his brother William, also a priest of the English Church, but the wars of the Maories had become so desperate that the peril of the missionaries had been much increased; indeed, the Wesleyans had had the whole of their premises ravaged, so that the minister came as a fugitive to find a refuge at Paramatta, as a guest of Mr. Marsden.
That brave soldier of his Lord decided on going at once to the scene of peril. Though sixty-three years old, he sailed as soon as possible in H.M.S. Rainbow, but found peace restored and the danger to his missions over. He therefore came back, after remaining only five days at his labours in New South Wales, to the superintendence of the translation of several chapters of Holy Scripture, and to the instruction of the young Maories at the sort of college he had tried from the first to keep up at Paramatta, but which he was forced to abandon, since the delicate lungs of the Maories could not endure the parching dryness of the Australian climate.
By the time he went again to New Zealand, in 1830, Hunghi had been killed in battle, and the nation was fast dwindling between war and a disease resembling the influenza. It was estimated that in twenty years the numbers had diminished by one-half, and in the meantime English settlers were entering on the lands so numerously that it was evident that before long the islands would be annexed to the British crown. Mr. Marsden had hoped at first that this brave and intelligent people might have been Christianized and civilized, so as to stand alone, but finding that their deadly feuds and internecine savagery rendered this impossible, he thought it best to prepare them to come willingly under a curb that he trusted would be no more than beneficial.
He found the missionaries much alarmed, for a horrible battle had just been fought, caused by the misconduct and insulting behaviour of the crew of an English ship. One tribe had taken their part, another had risen to revenge the affront, and a great mutual slaughter had taken place; victory had remained with the avengers, and though the offending crew had sailed away, it was apprehended that all the English might suffer in their stead. There was not an hour to be lost. Mr. Marsden and Mr. Williams crossed the bay and entered the camp of the English allies, where they were affectionately greeted, and allowed to carry proposals of peace to the victorious party, but there they met with a less friendly reception, being told that they were answerable for the lives of those who had fallen in the battle, since it had been occasioned by the misconduct of their countrymen. When Mr. Marsden promised to write to England to prevent the return of the offenders, the savages desired he would do no such thing, since they only desired vengeance. However, they agreed to hold a meeting with the hostile tribe, and endeavour to come to terms. Early the next morning thirty-six canoes arrived opposite to the mission station, some containing forty men; and notice was given that if the commissioners appointed on either side did not come to terms, the white men would be the sacrifice.
The day was spent in conferences, but at night the chief of the hostile tribe clove a stick in two, in token that his anger was broken, and the two parties joined in a hideous war-dance, frequently firing their muskets; but peace was ratified, and Mr. Marsden found that real progress had been made among the natives around the stations. Many had become true and sincere Christians, among them the widow and daughters of Hunghi. A Maori Christian woman was married by Mr. Marsden to an Englishman. She made all the responses in good English, and appeared in decent English clothes of her own sewing. He also married a young man, free, and of good family, to a girl who had been a slave taken in war, who was redeemed from her master for five blankets, an axe, and an iron pot. A number of natives lived round the missions, attending the services, and working with a good deal of industry and intelligence, and an increasingly large proportion of these were openly baptized Christians.
A seventh visit was paid by Mr. Marsden in 1837, when seventy-two years of age. On his return an officer in the ship observed: "I think, sir, you may look on this as your last visit to New Zealand." "No," he answered, "I intend to be off again in about six weeks; the people in the colony are becoming too fine for me now. I am too old to preach before them, but I can talk to the New Zealanders." He adhered to his purpose, and his daughter, Martha, who had been with him on his last voyage, accompanied him again in this. There had been some quarrels with the crews of ships, but the natives always separated Mr. Marsden from the misdeeds of his people, and the old chiefs were delighted to see him. "Stay with us and learn our language," one of them said: "become our father and our friend, and we will build you a house." "No," replied another, "we cannot build a house good enough, but we will hire Europeans to do it for us."
Wherever he went, he was hailed as the friend of the Maori, and he made a progress through all the mission stations, which were growing up numerously, and whence Christianity was fast spreading by the agency of the Maories themselves. A chief named Koromona, made captive in Hunghi's great war, who had become blind, had been converted by Mr. William Williams, and soon learnt the whole Liturgy, with many chapters of the Bible, and hymns, by heart, and was fit to be sent as a teacher among the other tribes. Sunday was generally observed, cannibalism and polygamy were retreating into the more remote and heathenish regions, and there was every token that the noble Apostle of New Zealand had verily conquered a country and people for the Church of God. Terrible wars among the tribes, provoking all the old ferocities, still were liable to arise, and the whaling crews, among whom might be found some of the most unscrupulous, licentious, and violent of mankind, continued to take advantage of there being no regular jurisdiction to commit outrages, which spread corruption or provoked retaliation, and for this there was no remedy but annexation to the British crown, which the influence of the mission was leading the natives themselves to desire, though this was not carried out till after Mr. Marsden's death.
This last visit took place in 1837. By that time the persecutions and troubles of Mr. Marsden's colonial life had been outlived,—though even as late as 1828, he writes about a pamphlet which actually charged him with inflicting torture to extract confession! But his character outweighed all such absurd charges, and as a more respectable class of settlers flowed into the colony he was better appreciated. What the tone must have been may be guessed from the fact that when, in 1825, Governor Darling began regularly to attend church with his wife and family, it was regarded as an unexampled act in the supreme magistrate!
Mr. Marsden lost his wife in 1835, but his daughter did her best to minister to his happiness, and was his companion and assistant in all he undertook. Once, when she was driving with him, two of the most terrible of the bushrangers, who were feared by the whole country, broke forth upon them, seized the horse, and holding a loaded pistol to Mr. Marsden's breast, bade her empty his pockets into their hands, threatening to shoot them both if either said a word. Nevertheless, the fearless old man continued to remonstrate with them on their wicked life, telling them that he should see them again upon the gallows, and though they charged him with savage threats not to follow them with his eyes, he turned round and continued to warn them of the consequences of a life like theirs. In a few months' time they were captured, and it did actually fall to his lot to attend them to the scaffold.
Yet, though of this fearless mould, he was one of the most loveable of men; everyone on his farm, as well as all little children, and the savages he conversed with, all loved him passionately. Some young Maories, whom he brought back on his last voyage, used to race after his gig to catch his eye, and when they took hold of any book, used to point upwards, as if whatever was associated with Matua, as they called him, must lead to heaven. He was fond of playing with children, and never was so happy as when he yearly collected the school-children of Paramatta on his lawn, for a feast and games after it.
In 1834, the Rev. William Grant Broughton, one of the clergy of Australia, took home an account of the spiritual destitution of New South Wales, and the effect was that in 1836 a bishopric was there created, and the first presentation given to him. Some thought that this was a passing over of the chaplain who had laboured so hard for so many years, but Mr. Marsden himself only observed that it was better thus: he was too old a man, and it was with sincere goodwill that he handed over the charge he had held for more than forty years, so that only the parish of Paramatta remained to him, and there he continued his ministry in church, to the sick, and among the poor to the end.
On the last Sunday of his life he seemed in his usual health; but for the first time he did not take part in the service, and at the celebration he seemed to be so overcome by his feelings as not to move from his place to communicate, when, after a pause, his son-in-law went to him with the sacred elements. There were many tears shed by those who foreboded that his hand would never administer to them again. On the Tuesday he set out for a short journey, but apparently he took a chill on the way to the house of his friend, Mr. Styles, at Windsor, and arrived unwell; erysipelas in the head came on, with a stupor of the faculties, and he died on Saturday, the 12th of May, 1838,—a man much tried, but resolute, staunch, and gallant, and, in the end, blessedly successful.
Two years later, New Zealand, by the wish of the Maories themselves, was added to the British dominions, a bishopric was erected there, and, did not our bounds forbid us to speak of those who are still among us, we could tell much of the development, under Bishop Selwyn, of Samuel Marsden's work: though, alas! there is a tale to tell that disgraces, not our Government, but our people,—a story of lust of land and of gain, and of pertinacious unfairness towards the Maori, which has alienated a large number of that promising and noble people, led to their relapse into the horrors from which they had been freed, overthrown their flourishing Church in favour of a horrid, bloodthirsty superstition, and will probably finish its work by the destruction of the gallant race that once asked our protection.
From Pioneers and Founders, or Recent Workers in the Mission Field by C. M. Yonge. London: Macmillan & Co., 1874.
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