Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Unpleasant discussions, on the local discordances I have already mentioned, obliged me to delay sailing for some hours: but at last I escaped, happy to disentangle myself from a maze of disagreeable questions, in which it was not my proper business to interfere, though unavoidably I had become involved in them. By evening we had gained a good offing, and profited by it in the night, during a strong gale of wind from the eastward, with a lee current, setting to the northwest, about a knot an hour. When we sailed there was every appearance of a gale coming on, but all our necessary operations were completed, and to have stayed an hour longer in that place would have been far worse than passing some hours in a gale of wind at sea.
That the few notices here given of a small part of New Zealand are scanty and quite insufficient for those who seek general information, I am well aware: but the Beagle's stay was very short, and I have made it a principle in this narrative to restrict myself to writing what I or my companions collected on the spot: admitting a few quotations from other authorities, only where they seemed to illustrate or explain a particular subject, without requiring much space. To those interested about this important and rising country, I need hardly mention the volume of evidence taken before the House of Lords, as the latest,—and Cook's account as the earliest,—as well as best sources of information.
I will now endeavour to draw attention to a few of the difficulties against which missionaries have to contend, while anxiously labouring in their holy cause among Polynesian, Australian, and European infidels. It may be supposed that population and occasional intercourse had every where extended, even before the ever-memorable epoch, when the 'Victory' was steered by the daring Magalhaens across an unexplored ocean: but since that time, intercourse with Polynesia has so much increased, that the most interesting islanders—those of Otaheite and the Sandwich Islands—are already more civilized than the natives of some of the Spanish settlements in America.
The New Zealanders are improving; so likewise are the natives of many other islands, which have been visited by missionaries: but those islanders who have been altered only by the visits of whalers, sealers, and purveyors for Chinese epicures, have in no way profited. On the contrary, they have learned to show less respect to their own ordinances, and have been taught no others in stead. The most abandoned, profligate habits and ideas, have been encouraged by the latter classes of visitors. By their fire-arms, ammunition, and spirituous liquors,—exchanged every where for provisions, and for the gratification of their animal inclinations,—lamentable effects have been caused.
Some men-of-war have allowed an unrestrained intercourse with the natives, receiving them on board, and permitting them to remain, as is still usual among the whalers. Others have not admitted any on board, excepting visitors who were formally received, and did not remain. Such, for example, as the Queens of the Sandwich Isles or Otaheite, with their attendants. But although in that respect men-of-war may have to plead guilty, they are free from any charge of exciting mutual hostility between neighbours; of taking any part in hostilities which were being carried on between rival tribes at the times of their visits; or of acting in any manner which could be likely to lower Europeans in the estimation of the natives, or to excite a feeling of animosity against white men in general.
Stray, or rather escaped convicts, are the chief draw-back. Unrestrained by any religious, or even mere moral principle, those abandoned men have done vast injury, but have frequently fallen victims to the just indignation of the provoked islanders, whose hospitality they abused. Convicts are seldom brave, but usually unprincipled, designing, and cunning; can one then wonder at the natives of some South Sea islands taking an aversion to white people, if their only acquaintance with them has been through such characters, transported to Australia for life, in consequence of felony: who have again, perhaps, been banished from Australia to the doubly penal settlement of 'Norfolk Island;' and have thence escaped to wander through those countries in which they have the strongest hope of avoiding apprehension.
It is little known, and difficult to estimate, how much anarchy, tumult, and destruction of human life have been prevented by the presence and active exertions of missionaries, during the last twenty years, in which French, Russian, American, and English intercourse with the Pacific, has so much increased. Under the colours of the United States, and of our own country, more than five hundred sail of vessels have been annually employed in the Pacific, during late years. To obtain refreshments and supplies, such as I have mentioned, only those islands on which there are white or native missionaries, are considered safe for single merchant ships. But even while profiting by the influence of the missionaries, and assisted by them in their intercourse with the natives, men who belong to those very ships hesitate not, in many instances (but not in all), to ridicule the means by which the missionary has gained his influence—to encourage immorality, and the use of ardent spirits, and to seek for faults in a system, as well as in the behaviour of individuals according to that system, because it has a tendency to limit the indulgence and expose the impropriety of their own unrestrained misconduct. If the opponents of missionaries could be prejudiced so far as to allow no other good character to have been earned by those hardworking men, they can never deny them that of peace makers.
Many sailors have left their ships, and settled for life, upon various islands. Though generally immoral, some of these men have established a character among the islanders, so very different from that of the convicts, that persons who understand the native descriptions are seldom deceived in their estimation of a man who, they hear, has recently settled in any place.
Some of these seamen have astonished the New Zealanders, and even men of the Feejee Islands, by hardy courage in warlike enterprises. One, known by the name of Charles, has been already mentioned as having distinguished himself so much by his activity and daring in wars with other islanders, that he was treated as a chief of very high rank, and allowed to have a hundred wives: while the greatest chieftains had from fifty to a hundred and fifty, according to their rank. There are now said to be upon the southern large island or middle island of New Zealand, settlements supposed to be formed by some two or three hundred abandoned characters, European, Australian, and American. These outcasts, of whom a proportion are convicts, have established a sort of system amongst themselves, in order to regulate their intercourse with the natives. I was told that they were living with native women, and, at that time, cultivated the soil; but, what will be the consequence of such a colony, if left to their own devices in that distant corner of the world? Yet, again, where could outcasts, whose state of exile (if they may be supposed to have good feelings) would be as insupportable to themselves as pitiable in the minds of others—where could such unhappy wretches be placed more appropriately than at the Antipodes? They should, however, be frequently watched, to check any approach to piratical preparations, as well as to give timely notice of such an intention.
Settlements of a different character are elsewhere forming, and the establishments of individuals are increasing in North New Zealand, at Otaheite, and in the Sandwich Islands. Between these establishments, small vessels are always in motion: and not trifling is the trade in oil (cocoa-nut oil), arrow-root, and sugar, between Otaheite and Sydney: in flax, spars, potatoes, and whale-oil, between New Zealand and Sydney; in sandal-wood, bicho-do-mar, nut-oil, pearl-oyster-shells, and curiosities (such as native arms, implements, and clothing) between other islands, and Australia, Tasmania,* the East-Indies, China, and South America.
Thus surrounded by those who are engaged in a commerce annually increasing; unavoidably involved in local dissensions; referred to on all occasions as interpreters or as peace-makers; and I may say, as the consular agents of white men of all nations; it argues very favourably for the missionaries that they have as yet upheld the character of their sacred office, though sneered at by nominal friends, censured by enemies, and always struggling against opposition. I have said that at the Sandwich Islands there is a consul; on those islands there are missionaries from the United States, but none from England. At Otaheite, also, there is now consular authority. At New Zealand there are two officers, holding the indefinite station of 'Resident.' One of these officers had a salary, but denied having any authority to act as a consular agent, or even as a magistrate.
Upon reading these statements, it will not be difficult to form an idea of some of the embarrassments of a secular nature, which perplex the missionaries, after having overcome all the primary dangers and difficulties of establishing themselves in savage—even cannibal countries. Although they are now able to assist their own countrymen, who have eagerly profited by their exertions,—settling in every direction upon those very lands to which access was obtained by their hardy, daring enthusiasm, and is preserved by the united efforts of the supporters of missionary societies, assisting and encouraging individual exertion,—their own strength is failing!
Embarrassments of many kinds are arising; one, jealousy of that influence which has enabled even those who are jealous to approach the spot upon which they now stand, and oppose the missionary as he exerts himself to suppress licentious habits and the use of ardent spirits. While assisting their early settlement, the missionaries were the best friends of those adventurers who sought a livelihood among the islands of the Pacific—in New Zealand especially. But when once established, ingratitude and utter want of reflection became too prevalent among the worst sort of settlers, whose only occupations were those of publicans and especial sinners. The few respectable settlers—men of character and property—such as Mr. Clendon and Mr. Mair at New Zealand, Mr. Bicknell and Mr. Henry (junior) at Otaheite, have acted—I rejoice to say—in the most honourable and praiseworthy manner. Their conduct deserves unanimous applause. To many it appears, that the respectable support and steady countenance of these upholders of the real character of Britons have, in a quiet, unpretending manner, much assisted the progress of the missionaries, and the spread of incipient civilization which must accompany the sacred truths of the gospel. If a few such men had not appeared upon that side of the world, how low might the character of Englishmen have fallen there. A few isolated missionaries would have been always opposed by numerous reprobates.
By such men as those who are jealous of the influence of the missionaries, an outery has been raised against their "attempts to monopolize the lands." Said those men, "Why should a missionary be allowed to purchase so much land as to prevent people who come afterwards from obtaining an eligible piece of ground near a frequented port?" "Why should Mr. —— be allowed to try to prevent Waripoaka and his tribe from selling me that piece of ground, because he thinks that I shall sell spirits, or build a public-house? Have not the missionaries already monopolized the best land in the finest situations?"
In answer to this, lest the reader should think that the missionaries have been covetous, and have taken undue advantage of their influence (gained, it ought to be remembered, at the imminent risk of life, and when no ordinary men dared to stop in the land), I will explain — that a large extent of land in New Zealand was long ago purchased by the missionaries, on behalf of the Church Missionary Society: and that many of the outcriers supposed that land to be the private property of individuals. And I will ask for attention to the too little considered fact, that these unjustly blamed individuals have (by their engagements) divided that tie which once held them to a country whose inestimable value can only be fully felt by those who have long been wanderers in other lands. New Zealand, or Otaheite, or a less known island, is now their home; and there are around them a host of little children whose smiling healthy looks would interest even strangers in their behalf, whose country is that adopted by their parents, and to whom every good father would anxiously desire to leave a sufficient maintenance, such as his own honourable exertions could procure. Shall the missionaries be debarred from providing in a proper manner for the future welfare of their own children? If a missionary and a more recent settler are each in treaty for a particular piece of ground, and the former obtains it upon easier terms than the latter, is it not a natural consequence of the good-will entertained towards him by the natives; many of whom understand and appreciate his motives, and are themselves very fond of the little white children, considering them as belonging to their country? The missionaries have bought land, as opportunities offered; and they, of course, from their residence upon the spot, have had better opportunities than occasional visitors or late settlers.
If anathemas, indulgences, or excommunications were in vogue among British missionaries, one might have a suspicion of undue influence; but as such engines of spiritual, or indeed temporal power, have not, as yet, travelled out of the coral circle of the Gambier islands, I think we need not impugn the characters of highly religious men, by puzzling ourselves to learn how protestant ministers—unassisted by artifice, supported by no temporal power, except that of public opinion, excited by their own good conduct — could have obtained so great an influence over tribes of New Zealanders, as to induce them to part with their paternal lands upon terms which the natives thought unfavourable, or less advantageous than those offered by other persons.
In opposition to such an idea as that of their eagerly grasping at territory, and using undue means to procure it, I know with certainty, that the Rev. Henry Williams, and his brother William, exerted all their real influence—that of advice—in pointing out the consequences which would result to some tribes who were inclined to part hastily with extensive tracts of valuable pine forests. The real value of those trees was explained to the natives; and they were shown distinctly how a careful management of such stores of spars would ensure a future property, and sufficient maintenance for the native children who would otherwise be deprived of their birthright. Did this show a desire to monopolize?
But I must hasten to a conclusion of the subject. When authorized agents of European or American governments assume active functions in New Zealand (where at present they are little more than cyphers), I hope they will have the good sense to ask for advice from the missionaries; who, no doubt, will duly remember, that, however they may have been called upon to act during emergencies, the duties of their office are, or ought to be, separated as much as possible from affairs of a secular nature. Neither in politics, nor in any kind of hostilities or dissensions, ought they to take a part, excepting as peacemakers, if an officer or authorized executive agent of government is within their reach.