On the outskirts of the wood I saw plenty of the New Zealand hemp plant growing in the swamps; this is the second most valuable export. — This plant resembles (but not botanically) the common iris; the under surface of the leaf is lined by a layer of strong silky fibres; the upper green vegetable matter being scraped off with a broken shell, the hemp remains in the hand of the workwoman. In the forest besides the Kauri there are some fine timber trees: I saw numbers of beautiful Tree-Ferns & heard of Palms. Some of the New Zealand forests must be impenetrable to a very extraordinary degree; Mr Matthews gave me an account of one which although only thirty four miles wide & separating two inhabited districts, like the central forest of Chiloe, had never been passed. He & another Missionary each with a party of about fifty men, undertook to open a road; but it cost them more than a fortnight's labor! — In the woods I saw very few birds; with respect to animals it is most remarkable that so large an island, extending over nearly a thousand miles in latitude, & in many parts one hundred & fifty broad, with varied stations, a fine climate & land of all heights from 14,000 feet downwards, should not possess one indigenous animal with the exception of a small rat. — It is moreover said that the introduction of the common Norway kind has entirely annihilated the New Zealand species in the short space of two years, from the Northern extremity of the island. In many places I noticed several sorts of weeds, which like the rats I was forced to own as countrymen. A leek, however, which has overrun whole districts & will be very troublesome, was imported lately as a favour by a French vessel. — The common dock is widely disseminated & wiIl I am afraid for ever remain a proof of the rascality of an Englishman who sold the seeds for those of the tobacco plant.
On returning from our pleasant walk to the houses, I dined with Mr Williams; & then a horse being lent me, I returned to the Bay of Islands. — I took leave of the Missionaries, with thankfulness for their kind welcome & upright characters. I think it would be difficult to find a body of men better adapted for the high office which they fulfil.
Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
I went with Mr. Baker to a scattered village, called Cawa-cawa. Leaving the ship early, we followed the windings of an estuary which forms Kororareka Harbour, until its shores contracted it to the limits of a fresh-water river. Three good houses on the eastern shore, lately built by respectable English settlers, attracted our notice in passing; and afterwards the 'Pah' of Pomare, a well-known chief, appeared like a cattle-enclosure upon a hill. Pomare is the man who killed and ate a part of his female slave, when Mr. Earle was there; he has still large possessions, and had larger, but has sold much for ammunition, muskets, and spirits. His honourable office at this time was that of supplying the numerous whale-ships which visited the harbour with his slaves; and he found such an employment of his female vassals answer better than the horrible one well described by Mr. Earle. Dismal alternative! On board each of the ships we passed there were many of these women; but before we notice the 'mote,' let us consider the great 'beam,'—think of what our own seaports were in times of war, and be charitable to the South Sea Islanders.
Pomare was heard to say that his son would be a greater man than himself: and the New Zealanders in general are impressed with the idea that their sons will be better, or greater men, than themselves.
The estuary, or arm of the sea, whose windings we were following, forms an excellent harbour for ships not larger than third-class frigates; or to speak in a more definite manner, for those which do not draw more than seventeen feet of water. On each side the land rises to five or six hundred feet, sheltering the anchorage without occasioning those violent squalls alternating with calms, that are found under the lee of very high land, over which strong wind is blowing. As far as I know, there are very few shoals or banks in the wide space which forms the inner harbour. A slight stream of current and tide runs outwards during about seven hours, and the tide sets inwards about five, though with still less strength. At times, the outward stream may run about two knots in the narrow places. Mr. Mair's house and shipping-yard, Mr. Clendon's establishment, and the pleasantly-situated house and garden of Mr. Wright gave an English aspect to the eastern side of the harbour; while boats passing and ships lying at anchor in an estuary, much resembling one in our own country, prevented the frequent occurrence of a thought, that we were near the Antipodes; and that on the western side of the harbour is the place where 'Marion' and so many of his crew were massacred, and afterwards eaten! That horrid catastrophe is now said to have been caused by mutual ignorance of language. The Frenchmen not understanding that the spot was tabooed, persisted in fishing there, and endeavoured to maintain their intrusion by force.
Canoes met and passed us as we proceeded. It was pleasant to witness the cordial greetings exchanged between most of their occupants and Mr. Baker. All these canoes were going to Kororareka, to sell their cargoes of firewood, potatoes, yams, or pigs. Here and there, by the water-side, we saw a house, or rather hut, with a patch of cleared and cultivated ground, a great pile of firewood, ready for sale, and perhaps a canoe close by, which the native owners were loading with the marketable produce of their land. When the estuary had diminished, and we found ourselves in a fresh-water river, there was much resemblance to parts of the river at Valdivia; but the amount of ground under cultivation, and the number of huts scattered over the face of the country and along the banks of the river, were less near Valdivia, exclusive of the town itself, than in this so lately a cannibal country.
Though on a small scale, the banks of this river are interesting and picturesque. On each side, the soil is extremely good on the low grounds, and the hills are well clothed with wood; they are not high, but approach the river rather closely in some places, so that the winding stream, spaces of level and partially cultivated land, and woody heights, are agreeably mingled, and formed a rapidly varying view as we proceeded.
Mr. Baker had been urged by the natives of Cawa-cawa to visit them, and endeavour to settle a dispute which had arisen with a neighbouring village, or rather tribe. He also wished to gain more advocates for the abolition of spirits; and I was glad to profit by the opportunity of seeing a little of the natives and their habits, in a place said to be Christianized, and uncontaminated by the spirit-sellers.
A few of our own countrymen were employing themselves as sawyers, on the banks of the river, near the village of Cawa-cawa; but neither their huts, their mode of living, nor their outward appearance, caused any feeling of good-will towards them on my part.
Having ascended the stream, as far as the boat could go, which was about four miles from the salt-water, we landed, and walked towards the village of Cawa-cawa, escorted by several elderly and a mob of young natives. Our way led through open underwood, maize-grounds, and damp swampy soil, in which I saw plenty of the plant called 'flax,' supposed, a few years since, to be very valuable, and now probably much undervalued. Across a stream the natives seemed delighted to carry us; indeed, I may say once for all, that at this village their whole behaviour was affable, friendly, and open, to a degree nearly approaching that of the merry Otaheitans.
Under the shade of a large tree, the inhabitants of the widely-scattered huts soon assembled. For me they brought a chair out of a cottage; but for themselves their native soil offered a sufficient place of rest. In all positions, half-enveloped in blankets or coarse country mattings, with their rough, curly hair protecting their heads from the sun's rays, and almost shading their tattowed faces, about a hundred men, women, and children surrounded their apparently most welcome friend 'Payka,' as they called Mr. Baker. Many fine forms and most expressive countenances were there. Such heads, indeed I may say, such a group for a painter! I had sufficient leisure to admire them; for it is etiquette in New Zealand to sit in silence during some minutes, previous to commencing any conversation. Engrossed by the fine, the grand heads of some of the old warriors, whose amply tattowed features had withstood the ravages of time more successfully than their once dark hair, and by the graceful figures of the younger women, I was sorry when the ceremonial silence was ended. By turns the principal men discussed with Mr. Baker (whose speaking appeared to be to the purpose, as well as fluent), the business for which they had assembled.
I could understand few words used, but the gestures of the natives were sufficiently expressive to give a general idea of their meaning. Mr. Baker's interpretation to me afterwards was to this effect:—"A neighbouring tribe has encroached upon the district which this tribe claim as hereditary property. These men prove their right to it by bringing forward several of their elders, who have at various times killed and eaten 'rats' upon it."
In other days, the war-club and the patoo-patoo—a sanguinary contest to determine whose should be the land and whose bodies should fill the ovens—would have been the unfailing mode of decision. "What would Mr. Baker recommend them to do, now that they had become Christians?" was their question. He recommended arbitration, each party to choose a 'wise man;' and if the two wise men disagreed, they should refer the question to the deliberation of the missionaries, at their next general meeting. He also promised to visit the other tribe, enquire into the case, and exert himself for the sake of both parties, who were equally his friends, and whose interest, as well as duty, it was to remain at peace.
By temporising, talking to each party, and inducing one to meet the other half way, Mr. Baker had no doubt of amicably arranging the affair. Is it not extremely gratifying to find the missionaries thus appealed to, and acting as mediators and peacemakers?
The singular reason for laying claim to this land, appears less extraordinary when explained. Formerly there were no wild quadrupeds, excepting rats, upon New Zealand: and while so destitute of animal food, a rat was considered 'game' by the natives; and no man would attempt to kill his neighbour's rats, or those which were found on his territory, without intending, or declaring war against him. Had not the rats, eaten by the older men of Cawa-cawa, belonged to them, the lawful or understood owners of the rats would long since have made war upon the people of Cawa-cawa. Rats having been there killed, and war not having been consequently declared, were irresistible arguments in the minds of those men, who never forgot, and who knew not how to forgive an injury.* Some of us are apt to think modern game laws harsh inventions, and the result of civilization. Yet if, in our own history, we look back seven hundred years, we find that human lives were then forfeited for those of beasts of the chase: and if we look at this country, which may be supposed two thousand years behind our own, in point of civilization, we find, that to kill a rat upon a neighbour's land, is an offence almost sufficient to cause a general war.
The precise manner in which territory is divided among these savages surprised me not a little: I thought land was but slightly valued by them. Though sold to Europeans for what we consider trifles, the sale is, to them, matter of high importance, in which every free man of the tribe ought to be consulted. Uncleared land is supposed to belong to the tribe, collectively. Cultivated spots, and houses, are private property, but cannot be sold, or given away, out of the tribe, without the consent of the whole community. This division of land among small tribes, looks much like a comparatively late appropriation of the country. To make a purchase of land in New Zealand, in a manner which will ensure quiet and unquestioned possession, it is necessary to assemble all the tribe of owners, or as many as can come; a few absentees, of little consequence, not being thought about. The goods intended to be given, as an equivalent for the land, are then spread out for inspection; and if the contracting parties agree, their word is given, and their marks are perhaps put to a deed which they cannot read, but whose purport they are told. The goods are forthwith carried away; each man appropriates what he chooses, and it often happens that the chief men of the tribe receive the smallest portion of the purchase goods.
One, among many objections alleged against the purchase of land, said to have been made by de Thierry, was, that he could not have bought land in New Zealand, while absent, because, in order to make a purchase valid, it is necessary to buy from the tribe, not from individuals.
Mr. Stokes was informed that when a tribe is utterly vanquished, the conqueror generously gives the survivors a grant of land, and even slaves. I do not see how to reconcile this act of generosity with the blood-thirsty warfare which has usually ended in indiscriminate slaughter, and cannibal feasts.
Satisfied, for the time, on the principal subject:—the much desired abolition of the use and importation of ardent spirits, was discussed. An old man, named 'Noah,' spoke to the tribe; and after alluding to the disgraceful and unfortunate events, caused by drinking, which had happened to their friends, and to neighbouring tribes, since the white men had introduced the vice of intoxication, old Noah ended a short but eloquent harangue, by saying, "expel the liquid fire." Noah is a Christian: his name was his own choice, when baptized, some years ago. The principal men, eight in number, signed, or made marks upon the paper, which contained the resolutions agreed to by acclamation. Noah wrote his name in a distinct hand: each of the others made marks resembling a small part of the tattowed lines upon their faces. One man imitated the mark upon the side of his nose; another that near his eye. Baked potatoes were afterwards brought to us; and a curious wine, of which I had not heard. It was dark coloured, and not unlike good elderberry wine. It is made from the small currant-like fruit of a shrub, which the settlers call 'native vine;' but the resemblance to a vine is about as evident as that of a common elderberry bush. The fruit grows in clusters, much like small elderberries in appearance, but it contains stony kernels, which are said to be unwholesome, if not poisonous. Women collect the juice by squeezing the bunches of fruit with their hands. I have heard that it is used after fermentation as well as in its pure juicy state, but some assert the contrary: it might then assuredly cause intoxication; I doubt, however, their often obtaining, or keeping, a sufficient quantity. It dyes the hands of the women and children who collect the juice, so deeply, that they cannot efface the stain for many days afterwards.
Instead of rubbing, or rather pressing, noses, these people have adopted the custom of shaking hands: every one expects to have a shake. Yet with all their asserted equality, and democratic ideas, there must be a considerable distinction of rank, and difference of occupation, among them; for I particularly noticed that two chief persons of this tribe, who rather resembled the higher class at Otaheite, had far less swarthy complexions, and less hardened extremities, than the others: one of them, considered by Mr. Baker to be the head of the tribe, was more like an Otaheitan 'Eri,' and less like the ordinary New Zealanders than any other native I saw, while at their island. From the meeting place under the large tree, we went to see a chapel which the natives were building, by their own free will and labour; and in our way we passed through yam and potato grounds, so neatly kept, that no gardener need have hesitated to commend them. The intended chapel was a lightly framed building of wood, with a thatched roof. The natives seemed to be very proud of it, and were much gratified by our praises. Some large oxen, in a pen, were feeding on young branches, and leaves of trees, gathered for them by the natives, which they appeared to relish as much as hay: they were called 'booa-cow.'
At the door of a house, or rather in the porch (before described), I saw a woman reading: she was sick, Mr. Baker told me, one of a long list of invalids, who frequently applied to the missionaries for advice and medicine. I looked at her book, it was the Gospel of St. Matthew, printed at Paihia, in the New Zealand language. Now, certainly, there was neither constraint, nor any thing savouring of outward show, in this woman's occupation, for my seeing her was sudden, and quite accidental, arising from my going out of the usual path to look at the oxen. Mr. Baker told me, that one of the most troublesome, though not the least gratifying duties, of the missionaries, was that of attempting to act as medical men. No regularly educated practitioner having at that time established himself in the land, every complaint was entrusted to the kind attention, and good will, but slight medical knowledge of the missionaries. We saw several nets for fishing placed in separate heaps, each upon a small platform, at the top of a post eight or ten feet in height: in a similar manner yams and potatoes are preserved from the rotting influence of the damp earth. The nets are made with the split leaves of the 'flax' plant, not merely with the fibres, and last for many years: both they and the food, thus exposed to the air, are thatched, like the houses, with the broad leaves of an iris-like rush, or flag, which grows abundantly by the river sides, and in marshy places. I was here informed, that after the bodies of the dead (which are exposed to the air, on platforms similar to those I have just mentioned), are thoroughly dried, the bones are carried away, and deposited in a secret burying place.