At the present day, from the progressive civilization, there is much less warfare. When Europæans first traded here, muskets & ammunition far exceeded in value any other article; now they are in little request & are indeed often offered for sale. — Amongst some of the Southern tribes there is, however, yet much hostility; I heard a characteristic anecdote of what took place there some time ago. — A Missionary found a chief & his tribe in full preparation for war; their muskets clean & bright & their ammunition ready. — He reasoned long on the inutility of the war & the little cause which had been given; the chief was much shaken in his resolution & seemed in doubt. — But at length it occurred to him that a barrel of his gunpowder was in a bad state & would not keep much longer; this was brought forward as an unanswerable argument for the necessity of immediately declaring war, — the idea of allowing so much gunpowder to spoil was not tolerable & it settled the point.
I was told by the Missionaries that in the life of Shongi, the chief who visited England, the love of War was the one & lasting spring of every action. The tribe in which he was a principal chief had at one time been much oppressed by another from the Thames river. A solemn resolution was agreed on, that when their boys should grow up into men & they should be powerful enough, they would never forget or forgive these injuries. To fulfil this appears to have been Shongi's chief motive for going to England; when there it was his sole object; presents were only valued which could be converted into arms; of the arts, those alone were interesting which were concerned with the manufactory of arms. — When at Sydney Shongi by a strange coincidence met at the house of Mr Marsden the hostile chief of the Thames: — their conduct was civil to each other. But Shongi told him that when again in New Zealand he would never cease to carry war into his country. — The challenge was accepted; & Shongi on his return fulfilled the threat to the utmost letter; the tribe on the Thames river was utterly overthrown, & the chief to whom the challenge had been given was himself killed. — Shongi, although concealing such deep feelings of hatred & revenge, is described to have been a goodnatured sort of person.
In the evening of this day I went with Capt. FitzRoy & Mr Baker, one of the Missionaries, to pay a visit to Kororarika. This is the largest village & will one day no doubt increase into the chief town. Besides a considerable native population there are many English residents. — These latter are of the most worthless character; & amongst them are many run away convicts from New South Wales. There are many spirit shops, & the whole population is addicted to drunkenness & all kinds of vice. As this is the capital, a person would be inclined to form his opinion of the New Zealanders from what he here saw; but in this case his estimate of their character would be too low. — This little village is the very strong-hold of vice; although many tribes, in other parts, have embraced Christianity, here the greater part are yet remain in Heathenism. In such places the Missionaries are held in little esteem; but they complain far more of the conduct of their countrymen than of the natives. It is strange, but I here heard these worthy men say that the only protection which they need & on which they rely is from the native Chiefs against Englishmen!
We wandered about the village & saw & conversed with many of the people, both men, women & children. Looking at the New Zealander, one naturally compares him with the Tahitian; both belonging to the same family of mankind. The comparison however tells heavily against the New Zealander. He may perhaps be superior in energy, but in every other respect his character is of a much lower order. One glance at their 659 respective expressions, brings conviction to the mind that one is a savage, the other a civilized man. It would be in vain to seek in the whole of New Zealand a person with the face & mien of the old Tahitian chief Utamme. No doubt the extraordinary manner in which tattooing is here practised gives a disagreeable expression to their countenances. The complicated but symmetrical figures covering the whole face, puzzle & mislead an unaccustomed eye; it is moreover probable that the deep incisions, by destroying the play of the superficial muscles, would give an air of rigid inflexibility. — But besides all this, there is a twinkling in the eye which cannot indicate anything but cunning & ferocity. — Their figures are tall & bulky, but in elegance are not comparable with those of the working classes inTahiti; this I believe was the opinion of all on board, though we had expected otherwise from having read Mr Earles2 work. — Both their persons & houses are filthily dirty & offensive; the idea of washing either their persons or clothes never seems to have entered their heads. I saw a chief, who was wearing [al shirt black & matted with filth; when asked how it came to be so dirty, he replied with surprise "Do not you see it is an old one?" — Some of the men have shirts, but the common dress is one or two large blankets generally black with dirt, which are thrown over their shoulders in a very inconvenient and awkward fashion. A few of the principal chiefs have decent suits of English clothes, but these are only worn on great occasions.
Considering the number of foreigners residing in New Zealand & the amount of commerce carried on there, the state of government of the country is most remarkable. It is however incorrect to use the term government, where absolutely no such thing exists. The land is divided by well determined boundaries between the various tribes, which are totally independent of each other. The individuals in each tribe consist of free men, & slaves taken in war; the land is common to all the freeborn, that is each may occupy & till any part that is vacant; in a sale therefore of land, every such person must receive part payment. — Amongst the free men, there will always be some one who from riches, from talents, or from descent from some noted character, will take the lead, & in this respect he may be considered as the chief. — But if the united tribe should be asked who was their chief, no one would be acknowledged. Without doubt in many cases the individuals thus obtain great influence, but as far as I 661 understand their power is not legitimate. Even the authority of a master over his slave, or parent over his children, appears to be regulated by no kind of ordinary custom. Proper laws are of course quite unknown; certain lines of action are generally considered right & others wrong. —if such customs are infringed upon, the injured person or his tribe if they have power, seek retribution; if not they treasure up the recollection of it, till the day of revenge arrives. — If the state in which the Fuegians live should be fixed on as zero in the scale of governments, I am afraid the New Zealand would rank but a few degrees higher, while Tahiti, even as when first discovered, would occupy a respectable position.
Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
We were much struck by the beautiful appearance of an evergreen tree, resembling an ilex, or a large myrtle, when seen from a distance; whose bright red flowers, in large clusters, upon the dark green foliage, gave an effect which I longed to see transferred to an English garden. This tree seemed to be common. After landing, the fern attracted more notice than any other vegetable production: every where in New Zealand this useful plant is found. Why useful? may be thought. Because it was one principal article of food, before the introduction of potatoes. Owing to its abundance, and to the edible, as well as tolerably nutritious, nature of its roots, no man can ever starve in New Zealand who is able to gather fern: but that it is not a pleasant food may be inferred from the fact that no native eats fern-roots when he can get potatoes. Where the fern grows thickly, and high, the soil is known to be rich: where it is small, and scarce, the land is not worth cultivating.
Mr. Williams, the elder, formerly a lieutenant in the navy, was absent on an exploring and negociating expedition to the southern parts of the island. I much regretted having missed seeing him, as he was considered the leading person among the missionary body in New Zealand; and was said, by every one, to be thoroughly devoted to the great cause, in which he was one of the first, and most daring. I walked with Mr. Baker about the little village, or hamlet, of Paihia. A substantial stone building I thought must be the church; but was a good deal disappointed at being shown a small low edifice, as the place of worship; and hearing that the large stone house was the printing establishment. This I did not like; for I thought of the effect produced on ignorant minds by the magnificence of Roman Catholic churches. No doubt education overcomes superstitious ideas and observances; and the devotion of an enlightened man is not increased or diminished by the style, or by the decorations of a building: in him probably no building made by hands would excite such emotions as the starry temple of a cloudless sky. But ought he, therefore, to despise, or think lightly of those outward forms, and ceremonious observances, which influence ignorant people, who see without thinking; and are too much guided by that which makes a vivid impression. Would a little outward show do any harm among such ignorant human beings as the savages of New Zealand; or among Fuegians, and New Hollanders? And may one not expect that an intelligent native should notice that the 'House of God' is in every respect inferior to the other houses which they see erected by Christians?
Paihia is a pretty spot. The harbour of Kororareka lies in front; and an amphitheatre of verdant hills forms the back ground. But it must be hot during the summer, as it is in a hollow, facing the sun. A visit to Mr. J. Busby, the 'British Resident,' at his house (protected by the flag, as I have already mentioned) occupied Mr. Darwin and myself some time. Like most of the missionary dwellings, it is a temporary boarded cottage, intended only for present purposes. Mr. Busby was taking great pains with his garden; and among other plants he anticipated that vines would flourish. Those at Waitangi (the name of his place) are favoured by climate, as well as by the superintendance of a person who so thoroughly understands their culture. At a future day not only New Zealand, but Van Diemen's Land, and all New Holland, will acknowledge the obligation conferred upon them by this gentleman, who made a long and troublesome journey through France and Spain solely for the purpose of collecting vines for Australia, his adopted country.
Mr. Busby's official occupations at New Zealand appeared to me of a very neutral character. An isolated individual, not having even the authority of a magistrate, encircled by savages, and by a most troublesome class of his own countrymen, I was not astonished at his anxiety to receive definite instructions, and substantial support; or at the numerous complaints continually made by the English settlers.
Afterwards we went to Kororareka. On a sandy level, narrowly bounded by a low range of hills, or rather rising grounds, stands the principal assemblage of houses in the island; or as the missionaries say, 'in the land'. I have said assemblage of houses, because it did not agree with my ideas of a town, a village, a hamlet, or even an Indian encampment. Near the beach were a few small cottages which had once been whitewashed. At the foot of the hills were two or three small houses of European build; but the remaining space of ground appeared to be covered by palings, and pig-styes. The temporary enclosures which are made in a market-place, for cattle, might give an idea of the appearance of these sadly wretched dwelling places. The palings, or palisades, are intended to be fortifications: they are high, sometimes eight or ten feet; and, almost encircling the whole, a stronger palisade is fixed, but so inefficiently that either strength, an axe, or fire, would ensure an entrance to resolute men. There is neither embankment nor ditch. Within the small square spaces, enclosed by the slighter palings, are the huts of the natives: the angular, low thatched roofs of which are scarcely set off from the ground by walls a foot or two in height. These roofs slope downwards, lengthwise as well as sideways; so that the front of the hut is the highest part. The upper point of the roof may be eight feet from the ground; the space of ground occupied, about ten square feet; seldom more, indeed usually less. Besides the door, through which a man cannot pass excepting upon his hands and knees, there is neither window, nor aperture of any kind. The New Zealand 'order of architecture,' is marked by two wide planks placed edgeways in front, joined together at the top by nails or pegs, and forming a wide angle, in which the space is filled up, excepting a door-way two feet square, with materials similar to those of the walls and roof, namely wicker work, or 'wattling,' covered by a thatching of broad flag leaves or rushes. The eaves of the roof project two or three feet beyond the front; so likewise do the side walls. In this sort of porch the family sit, eat, and, in the daytime, often sleep. At night most of them huddle together, within what, in every respect, deserves the name of a sty: even a Fuegian wigwam is far preferable, for as that is frequently left vacant during many successive weeks, heavy rains and a cold climate are antidotes to any particular accumulation of dirt. In a fine climate, surrounded by beautiful trees and luxuriant herbage, can one account for human nature degrading itself so much as to live in such a den? Is it not that the genuine, simple beauties of Creation are understood, and enjoyed, only in proportion as man becomes more refined, and as he differs more from his own species in what is falsely called a state of nature.
I was inquisitive about the large planks, generally painted red, which appeared in front of every house. The natives told me that such boards had always been made by their ancestors, before tools of any metal were seen in the land: they were from twelve to twenty feet in length, about two feet in breadth, and two inches thick: and they seemed to have been 'dubbed' down to a fair surface; but I am inclined to think that the wood is of a kind that splits easily into plank, like the alerse of southern Chile. Being the evening meal time, some women, and male slaves, were removing the cinders from holes in the earth, whence steam was issuing profusely, under a shed, near the house I was examining. The shed was a light roof, upon upright poles, covering the cooking place—a few square yards of cinder-covered ground. Out of each hole dirty looking bunches of fish and leaves were raked with fingers and sticks. Hot stones were at the bottom of the hole, placed in the usual Polynesian and Chilote method. The fish had been wrapped in the leaves, but taking it out of the oven in such a manner had displaced the leaves, and substituted a coating of ashes and cinders. Potatoes, raked out of another hot hole, looked more eatable: but leaving the natives to their dirty food, we walked to the new church. A slightly built edifice of bricks, and light frame work, with an abundance of bad glass windows, gave me the idea of a small methodist meeting-house, or an anabaptist chapel, rather than an episcopal church. A good deal of money having been subscribed by residents, and visitors, specially for this church, it might be wished that a portion of it had been employed in obtaining a better design, and better materials, as it stands in a very conspicuous situation. To place a church in a stronghold of iniquity, such as Kororareka, the resort of the worst disposed inhabitants of New Zealand, native and foreign, was a daring experiment: yet notwithstanding the ill-will entertained towards the missionaries, by their 'spirit-selling' countrymen; by native chiefs, whose pandering trade was yearly lessened; and by the evil disposed of every description, no molestation had been offered, and not a plane of glass had been broken! neither had the church service been performed in vain to inattentive hearers.
Returning to the beach, we saw some of the fine canoes I have already mentioned: we then paid a formal visit to one of the chiefs; and for another, who was not at home, I thought I could not do better than leave a present: his wife, or rather one of his wives, was pointed out to us, as the sister of the notorious Shunghi. 'Titore' was the absent chief's name. He was out in the country, with a hundred well-armed followers, cultivating, as we were told, his yam and potato grounds. We next saw a burying place, or rather a place where the dead are exposed, upon a raised platform, to the wind and sun. Wrapped in cloth of the country, the bodies are placed upon small square platforms of boards, which are fixed upon single central posts, ten feet high. Bushes were growing, unmolested, in the enclosure (or 'Marae'), no foot entering to tread them down. Among these thickets I saw several large boards standing upright like gravestones, some of which were painted red, and uncouthly carved. Returning to our boat, the chief whom we had visited presented me with a garment of the country manufacture: his assumed haughtiness was amusing, from being characteristic. Our evening was passed in very interesting conversation with Mr. W. Williams, and Mr. Baker;* the former had just arrived from Waimate, an agricultural settlement, lately established by the missionaries, in the interior.
Of the difficulties encountered and surmounted by the first missionaries in New Zealand full accounts have been lately published: the little we then heard strongly excited our curiosity. Mr. Marsden appeared to have been the originator, as well as the main instrument, in forwarding the great work.