26th December 1835

New Zealand
Mr Busby offered to take Mr Sulivan & myself in his boat some miles up the river Cowa-Cowa, & then to walk on to the village of Waiomio, where there are some curious rocks. — Following one of the arms of the Bay, we enjoyed a pleasant row, passing through pretty scenery till we came to a village beyond which the boat could not proceed. — The chief & a party of men volunteered to walk on with us to Waiomio, a distance only of four miles. This chief is at present rather notorious, from having hung one of his wives & a slave for adultery. When remonstrated with by one of the Missionaries he said he thought he was following the English method. Old Shongi who happened to be in England at the time of the Queen's trial, expressed great disapprobation at the whole proceedings; he said he had five wives, & he would sooner cut off all their heads than suffer so much trouble about one. — Leaving this village we crossed over to another one seated on a hill side at a little distance. The daughter of the chief of this place, who yet followed heathen customs, had died five days before; the hovel in which she had expired was burnt to the ground; her body being enclosed between two small canoes, was placed upright in the ground & protected by an enclosure bearing wooden images of their gods, & the whole was painted bright red, so as to be conspicuous from afar. Her gown was fastened to the coffin, & her hair being cut off was cast at its foot. The relatives of the family had torn the flesh of their arms, bodies & faces, so as to be covered with clotted blood; & the old women looked most filthy, disgusting objects: On the following day some of the officers visited this place, & again found the women howling & cutting themselves.

We continued our walk & soon reached Waiomio; here there are some singular masses of limestone resembling in their forms ruined castles. — These rocks have long served for burial places, & hence are sacred. One of the young men cried out "Let us be brave", & run on ahead; but when within a hundred yards, the whole party stopped short; they allowed us however with perfect indifference to examine the whole place. — At this village we found several old men; we rested here some hours, during which time there was a long discussion with Mr Busby, concerning the right of sale of certain lands. An old man who appeared a perfect genealogist, illustrated the successive possessors by bits of stick driven in the ground. — Before leaving, a little basket full of roasted sweet potatoes was given to each of our party, & we all, according to the custom, carried them away to eat on the road. I noticed that amongst the women employed in cooking there was one Slave; it must be humiliating to a man thus to be employed in what is only considered as woman's work: in a like manner, slaves do not go to war; but this perhaps can hardly be considered as a hardship. — I heard of one poor wretch, who during hostilities ran away to the opposite party; being met by two men he was immediately seized; but they not agreeing to whom he should belong, each stood over him with a stone hatchet & seemed determined at least that the other should not take him alive. — the poor man, almost dead with fright, was only saved by the address of a Chief's wife. — We then enjoyed a pleasant walk back to the boat, but did not reach the ship till late in the evening.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Disputes between masters of whale ships and their crews, and between both these classes and the New Zealanders, obliged me to meddle, though very reluctantly, in their affairs to show what anarchy has been caused in this country, by the partial, half measures, which have been taken, I will try to describe the state of things, at the Bay of Islands, as we found them.

I will not attempt to give the slightest sketch of events which had occurred anterior to the Beagle's visit, full and authentic details being accessible in other publications; farther than to say that the rumoured approach of de Thierry had stimulated Mr. Busby (holding the undefined office of British resident) to take measures adverse to such foreign intruders, by issuing a public announcement, and by calling together the principal chiefs of tribes inhabiting the districts of New Zealand, north of the Thames, with a view of urging them to frame a sort of constitution,† which should have a steadying influence over their unwieldy democracy, and leave them less exposed to foreign intrusion.

Thus much had been done by words and on paper; the chiefs had departed, each to his perhaps distant home, and the efficiency of their authority, in a 'collective capacity' was yet to be discovered. No 'executive' had been organized; the former authorities—each chief in his own territory—hesitated to act as they had been accustomed, owing to a vague mystification of ideas, and uncertainty as to what they really had agreed upon, while the authority of Mr. Busby was absolutely nothing, not even that of a magistrate among his own countrymen; so of course he could have no power over the natives. To whom then were the daily squabbles of so mixed and turbulent a population, as that of the Bay of Islands and its vicinity, to be referred?

Late events had impressed the natives with such a high idea of King William's men-of-war, that even the little Beagle was respected by them, and, in consequence, appeals were made to me—by natives, by men of the United States of America, and by British subjects; but, not then aware of the peculiarity of Mr. Busby's position, I referred them to him, under the idea that his office was of a consular nature, and therefore that I ought not to act in these cases, excepting as his supporter. Finding him unwilling to take any steps of an active kind, not deeming himself authorised to do so: and the aggrieved parties still asking for assistance, I referred them to the only real, though not nominal, authority, in the place, that of the missionaries. By the active assistance of Mr. Baker, the more serious quarrels were ended without bloodshed, and those of a more trifling nature, in which the natives were not concerned, were temporarily settled: but I doubt not that in a few days afterwards anarchy again prevailed.

To give an idea of the nature of some of these quarrels, and of the serious consequences they might entail, I will describe briefly two or three cases which were referred to me.

Pomare had been beaten while on board a whale ship, by some of her crew. No New Zealander will submit to be struck, but thus to treat a chief is unpardonable. Burning with indignation he maltreated the first Englishman whom he met on shore, and was concerting serious measures of revenge, when the master of the ship, and a number of his men, came to ask for assistance and protection.

Again; a chief, whose name I do not know, had been refused admittance on board a whale ship, where he had heard that one of his female slaves was living. He did not wish to injure her, or even take her away. His only motive, in asking admittance, was to satisfy himself that she was there. Highly affronted at the refusal, he spoke to me, (as he said) previously to collecting his warriors and attacking the ship.

Another case was unconnected with the natives, but tended to expose a fraudulent system, and to show the necessity of arming British authorities, in distant parts of the world, with a definite degree of control over the licentious, or ill-disposed portion of their own countrymen, who, in those remote regions, are disproportionably numerous, and now able to do pretty much what they please.

A person who stated himself to be the master of an English whaler, lying in the harbour, came on board the Beagle, accompanied by a man said to be the third mate. The former complained of the mutinous state of his crew, who had ill treated this third mate, and then refused to work or obey any orders. Inquiry on board the whaler, showed that the crew had been ill-used, especially as to provisions: and that not only the nominal master, but the chief as well as the second mate were North Americans, (U.S.) The legal master, it appeared, was the so-called third mate, an Englishman. His name appeared in the ship's papers as master; that of the person who had been acting as master did not appear at all. But the acting master, who before me styled himself 'super-cargo,' produced a power of attorney from the owners of the vessel,* which appeared to authorise him to control the proceedings of the vessel, as he thought proper; to displace the master and appoint another person in his stead, and in every way to act for the owners, as if he, the American, were sole owner. Nearly all the seamen were British subjects. How far his power of attorney might carry weight against the spirit and intent of the navigation laws, I had much doubt; but as it appeared to me that the owners in such cases, ought to know their own interest better than other persons could; and that in suiting their own interest they certainly would add their mite towards the general interest of their country; and as the supercargo had a circular letter from the Commander-in-chief on the West-India and North American station, asking for the assistance of any King's ship he might meet (with the view of encouraging the whale fishery out of Halifax); I refrained from doing what my first impulse prompted—putting an officer on board, and sending the ship to the nearest port (Sydney), in which correctly legal measures might be adopted, if necessary. Meanwhile as the British resident did not think himself authorised to interfere, and disorder, with 'club-law,' were prevailing and likely to continue, in the Rose, I went on board, accompanied by Lieutenant Sulivan and Mr. Bynoe.

After examining the provisions and all the ship's papers, I spoke to the crew (every man of whom wished to leave the vessel) and to the nominal master; obtained an assurance, in their hearing, that their future allowance of provisions should be unobjectionable, and, for the time, restored order. But I felt that the calm was unlikely to last, and two days afterwards fresh appeals were made, to which I could not attend, being in the act of leaving the port.

The laws which regulate our merchant shipping, especially sealers and whalers, do not appear to extend a sufficient influence over the numerous vessels, which, with their often turbulent inmates, now range over the vast Pacific. For many years past, Great Britain and the United States have annually sent hundreds of large whale ships into the Pacific: during late years, Sydney has sent forth her ships, amounting at present in number to more than sixty, most of which are employed in whaling or trading in the Pacific: and be it remembered that their crews are not the most select seamen—the nature of many of them may easily be imagined—yet in all this immense expanse of ocean, little or no restraint except that of masters of vessels, on board their own ships, is imposed either upon Americans or British subjects! There is the nominal authority of a consul at the Sandwich, and Society Islands: and occasionally a man-of-war is seen at the least uncivilized places. But how inefficient is so widely separated, and so nominal a control? When ships of war visit the less frequented parts of the Pacific, they are too much in the dark, as to the state of things, to be able to effect a tenth part of what might be done, in equal time, by a ship employed solely on that ocean. In so peculiar a portion of the world as Polynesia, it takes some time to learn what has been taking place: and what ship of war has stayed long enough for her captain to lose the sensation of inexperience—which must embarrass him if called upon to decide and act, in cases where he really is about the most ignorant person (as regards the special case) of any one concerned with it? In consequence of that ignorance, he must inevitably be more or less guided by the advice of parties, of whose individual interest in the matter so short an acquaintance cannot give him a proper idea.

A great deal of prudence, and good management, is required in the commander of a man-of-war, who has any business of consequence to transact with the natives of Polynesia, or who has to deal with his own countrymen in that distant region. A single ship, assisted perhaps by tenders, might, if well commanded, do more good in a few years among the islands of the Pacific, than can now easily be imagined. But then she must be stationary; not that she should remain in one place—far from it—her wings should seldom rest; I mean only that she should stay in the Pacific during three or four years. In that time so much information might be gained, and so much diffused among the natives; such a system of vigilant inspection might be established, and so much respect for, and confidence in the British nation, be secured—that our future intercourse with Polynesia would, for a length of time, be rendered easier and infinitely more secure, as well as creditable.

The few ships of war which have remained during any length of time among the islands, have been occupied by exploring and surveying, to an extent that has interfered with the earnest consideration of other matters. But in a ship, employed as I have described, a surveyor might be embarked, who would have ample opportunities of increasing our knowledge of that ocean. And if a sensible man, whose natural ability had been improved by an education unattainable by sailors, could be tempted to bear the trials and losses of a long sea voyage, in a busily employed ship, how much might Science profit by the labours of three or four such years?

Having thus entered freely into ideas which I have so often dwelt upon that they are become familiar, I will venture to suggest the kind of ship which would do most, in my humble opinion, at the least ultimate expense consistent with efficiency. Moral influence over the minds of natives, as well as over wanderers from our own or other countries, is a primary object, and that influence might be at once obtained by the mere presence of a large ship.

Compare the manner in which the natives of the Marquesas behaved to the Tagus and Briton frigates, with their hostility to vessels whose appearance did not overawe them. An outward show of overpowering force would often prevent a struggle, and probably loss of life, which, however justifiable, cannot too anxiously be avoided. From what I have seen and heard, I feel authorised to say that one ship of force, well-manned, and judiciously commanded, would effect more real good in the Pacific than half-a-dozen small vessels.

Frigates have already been seen among some of the islands of Polynesia, and heard of in the greater number. To send a ship of a lower class to establish a general influence over the Polynesians, and our own wandering countrymen, as well as for the purposes I have previously mentioned, would be to treat the business so lightly that, for the credit of our country, it would perhaps be better let alone; particularly as a frigate does occasionally go from the South American station, and a sloop from Australia, or the East-Indies. No European or American nation has now a duty to perform, or an interest to watch over, in the Pacific Ocean, equal to that of Great Britain. The North Americans are increasing their connections, and consequently their influence, rapidly. Russia has extended her arm over the Northern Pacific. France has sent her inquiring officers, and Roman Catholic missionaries* are sowing the seeds of differences, if not discord, among the islanders, in the Gambier Islands and elsewhere.

Independent of expense, what are the principal local objections to employing a frigate in such a duty? In the first place, among the islands there would be risk of getting ashore, increasing with the size of the ship:—in the second; it might be difficult to obtain supplies, and in the event of losing spars she might be obliged to return; perhaps to England:—in the third; to get ashore, in a ship drawing so much water, would be a much more serious affair than a similar accident happening to a smaller vessel: and, by obliging her to return to England, or go to an East-Indian dockyard, would upset all plans and expose Polynesia to greater irregularities and less control than ever, until new arrangements could be made.

To the 'risk of getting ashore,' I answer: large ships are in general more efficiently officered and manned than small ones, and they are less likely to get into danger, because they are consequently more carefully managed. The Pacific is, technically speaking, a 'deep water' ocean: all its coral reefs are 'steep-to.' Sand or mud banks are unknown, except near the shores of continents, and even there they are rare, unless on the Japanese and Chinese shores. Small ships attempt to sail in intricate passages, and get ashore:—large vessels use warps, or await very favourable opportunities, and are not risked. Secondly: supplies may now be obtained in any quantity on the coast of South America, as well as in Australia; and fresh provisions can be obtained by regular, reasonable purchase, at the principal islands. New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the north-west coast of America and other places, are stocked with the finest spars: and lastly: a large ship, well provided, has the resources of a small dock-yard within herself.

An East-India trader of eight hundred tons, was hove down by her own crew, and the natives, at Otaheite. Cook laid his ship ashore for repair in Endeavour River, on the north-east coast of New Holland; where the rise and fall of tide is very great. Sydney is an excellent place for heaving down and repairing a ship of any size. Guayaquil has a great rise and fall of tide. Lima, or rather Callao,—and Coquimbo, are good places for a ship to refit in. But Sydney is superior to all as a rendezvous, and any repairs may be effected there.

Large ships are able to do all their own work, while small vessels are frequently obliged to ask for the help of their neighbours, when they get into difficulty, or want repairs. These considerations, however, should not prevent a frigate from having a good tender, for much risk would then be avoided: and although the large ship might be repairing, the knowledge that she was in the Pacific* would be quite sufficient, if she had only established such a character as that which was borne by many a British frigate during the last general war. Such a ship could detach efficient boats for surveying, or other purposes; she could carry animals, seeds, plants, and poultry, to those islands which have none; and by her countenance and protection, she could assist and encourage the missionaries in their all-important occupation.

No comments: