Life and Work of Samuel Marsden
Mr. Marsden took what proved to be his last leave of his native land in August, 1809. Resolute as he was, and nerved for danger, a shade of depression passed over him.
“The ship, I understand,” he writes to Mrs. Mason Good, “is nearly ready. This land in which we live is polluted, and cannot, on account of sin, give rest to any of its inhabitants. Those who have (sought) and still do seek their happiness in anything it can give, will meet nothing but disappointment, vexation, and sorrow. If we have only a common share of human happiness, we cannot have or hope for more.”
A few weeks afterwards he addressed the same lady as follows:—
Cambridge, August 1st, 1809.
Yesterday I assisted my much esteemed friend, Mr. Simeon, but here I shall have no continuing city. The signal will soon be given, the anchor weighed, and the sails spread, and the ship compelled to enter the mighty ocean to seek for distant lands. I was determined to take another peep at Cambridge, though conscious I could but enjoy those beautiful scenes for a moment. In a few days we shall set off for Portsmouth. All this turning and wheeling about from place to place, and from nation to nation, I trust is our right way to the heavenly Canaan. I am happy page 48 in the conclusion, to inform you that I have got all my business settled in London much to my satisfaction, both with Government and in other respects. The object of my mission has been answered far beyond my expectations. I believe that God has gracious designs towards New South Wales, and that His Gospel will take root there, and spread amongst the heathen nations to the glory of His grace.
I have the honour to be, dear madam,
Yours in every Christian bond,
The ship Ann, in which he sailed, by order of the Government, for New South Wales, had been some time at sea before Mr. Marsden observed on the forecastle, amongst the common sailors, a man whose darker skin and wretched appearance awakened his sympathy. The man was wrapped in an old great coat, was very sick and weak, and had a violent cough, accompanied with profuse bleeding. He was much dejected, and appeared as though a few days would close his life. This was Duaterra,* a New Zealand chief, whose story, as related by Mr. Marsden himself, is almost too strange for fiction. And as “this young chief became,” as he tells us, “one of the principal instruments in preparing the way for the introduction of the arts of civilization and the knowledge of Christianity into his native country,” a brief sketch of his marvellous adventures will not be out of place.
* Ruatara. The biographer's spelling of the name has been maintained throughout.
He now shipped himself on board the Albion whaler, Captain Richardson, whose name deserves honourable mention; he behaved very kindly to Duaterra, repaid him for his services in various European articles, and after six months' cruising on the fisheries, put him on shore in the Bay of Islands, where his tribe dwelt. Here he remained six months, when the Santa Anna anchored in the bay, on her way to Norfolk Island and other islets of the South Sea in quest of seal skins.
* As soon as civil government was established, the Maoris were treated with justice, consideration and kindness.
At length the Santa Anna returned, having procured a valuable cargo of seal skins, and prepared to take her departure homewards. Duaterra had now an opportunity of gratifying an ardent desire he had for some time entertained of visiting that remote country from which so many vast ships were sent, and to see with his own eyes the great chief of so wonderful a people. He willingly risked the voyage, as a common sailor, to visit England and see King George.
The Santa Anna arrived in the river Thames about July, 1809, and Duaterra now requested that the captain would make good his promise, and indulge him with at least a sight of the king. Again he had a sad proof of the perfidiousness of Europeans. Sometimes he was told that no one was allowed to see King George; sometimes that his house could not be found. This distressed him exceedingly; he saw little of London, was ill-used, and seldom page 51 permitted to go on shore. In about fifteen days the vessel had discharged her cargo, when the captain told him that he should put him on board the Ann, which had been taken up by Government to convey convicts to New South Wales. The Ann had already dropped down to Gravesend, and Duaterra asked the master of the Santa Anna for some wages and clothing. He refused to give him any, telling him that the owners at Port Jackson would pay him in two muskets for his services on his arrival there; but even these he never received.
Mr. Marsden was at this time in London, quite ignorant of the fact that the son of a New Zealand chief, in circumstances so pitiable, lay on board a South Sea whaler near London bridge. Their first meeting was on board the Ann, as we have stated, when she had been some days at sea. His sympathies were at once roused, and his indignation, too; for it was always ill for the oppressor when he fell within the power of his stern rebuke.
“I inquired,” he says, “of the master where he met with him, and also of Duaterra what had brought him to England, and how he came to be so wretched and miserable. He told me that the hardships and wrongs which he had endured on board the Santa Anna were exceedingly great, and that the English sailors had beaten him very much, which was the cause of his spitting blood, and that the master had defrauded him of all his wages, and prevented his seeing the King. I should have been very happy, if there had been time, to call the master page 52 of the Santa Anna to account for his conduct, but it was too late. I endeavoured to soothe his afflictions, and assured him that he should be protected from insults, and that his wants should be supplied.”
By the kindness of those on board, Duaterra recovered, and was ever after truly grateful for the attention shown him. On their arrival at Sydney, Mr. Marsden took him into his house for six months, during which time Duaterra applied himself to agriculture; he then wished to return home, and embarked for New Zealand; but further perils and adventures were in prospect, and we shall have occasion to advert to them hereafter. For the present we leave him on his voyage to his island home.
The Ann touched on her passage out at Rio Janeiro, and Mr. Marsden spent a short time on shore, where his active mind, already, one would suppose, burthened with cares and projects, discovered a new field of labour. The ignorance and superstition of a popish city stirred his spirit, like that of Paul at Athens. He wrote Home to entreat the Church Missionary Society, if possible, to send them teachers; but this lay not within their province. From a letter of Sir George Grey, addressed to him, it appears that he had interested some members of the English Government in the subject, and that while at Rio he had been active in distributing the Scriptures.
But he was now to resume his labours in Australia, where he arrived in safety, fondly calculating upon a long season of peaceful toil page 53 in his heavenly Master's service. His mind was occupied with various projects, both for the good of the colony and of the heathen round about. His own letters, simply and hastily thrown off in all the confidence of friendship, will show how eagerly he plunged, and with what a total absence of selfish considerations, into the work before him:
Parramatta, October 26, 1810.
To John Terry, Esq.
Dear Sir,—I received your kind and affectionate letter, also a bottle of wheat, with the Hull papers, from your brother; for all of which I feel much indebted. We had a very fine passage, and I found my affairs much better than I had any reason to expect. The revolution had caused much distress to many families, and the settlement has been thrown much back by this event. My wishes for the general welfare of the colony have been more successful than I expected they would be. The rising generation are now under education in almost all parts of the country. The Catholic priests have all left us, so that we have now the whole field to ourselves. I trust much good will be done; some amongst us are turning to the Lord. Our Churches are well attended, which is promising and encouraging to us. My colleagues are men of piety and four of the schoolmasters. This will become a great country in time, it is much favoured in its soil and climate. I am very anxious for the instruction of the New Zealanders; they are a noble race, vastly superior in understanding to anything you can imagine a savage nation could attain. Mr. Hall, who was in Hull, and came out with us with an intention to proceed to New Zealand as a missionary, has not yet proceeded, in consequence of a melancholy difference between the natives of that island and the crew page 54 of a ship called the Boyd. The ship was burnt, and all the crew murdered; our people, it appears, were the first aggressors, and dearly paid for their conduct towards the natives by the loss of their lives and ship. I do not think that this awful event will prevent the establishment of a mission at New Zealand. Time must be allowed for the difference to be made up, and for confidence to be restored. I wrote a letter to Mr. Hardcastle, and another to Rev. J. Pratt, Secretary to the Society for Missions to Africa and the East, and have pointed out to them the necessity of having a ship constantly employed in visiting the islands in the South Seas, for the convenience, safety, and protection of the missionaries, either at Otaheite* and New Zealand, or at any other island upon which they may reside.Yours respectfully,
With these men, Mr. Marsden refused, as a Magistrate, to act, or to meet them in society on equal terms. Some of them were notoriously persons of a bad and vicious life; while none of them, he thought, could, without gross impropriety, punish others judicially for the infraction of that law which they themselves had broken. He would gladly have resigned his Magisterial office, but the Governor knew the worth of his services, and refused to accept his resignation, which was repeatedly tendered. The new Magistrates, of course, were offended, and became his bitter foes; and some of them harassed him for twenty years with slanders and libellous insults, until at length an appeal to the laws of his country vindicated his reputation and silenced his opponents.
Mr. Marsden relates that Governor Macquarie once sent for him to the Government House, and commanded him to produce the manuscript of a sermon which he had preached nearly a year before. He did so, when the Governor severely commented upon it, and returned it with the remark that one sentence, which it is page 56 more than probable he did not understand, was “almost downright blasphemy.”
The junior clergy, of course, were still more exposed to the same despotic interference. The Governor wished to prescribe the hymns they should sing, as well as the doctrines they should teach; and he repeatedly insisted on their giving out, during Divine Service, secular notices of so improper a character that the military officers in attendance expressed their disgust.
The Governor, at one time, even threatened Mr. Marsden with a court-martial; nor was the threat altogether an empty one, for he actually brought one of the junior chaplains, Mr. Vale, before a court-martial, and had him dismissed from the colony.
Yet amidst all these distractions Mr. Marsden's letters testify that he possessed his soul in peace, and that “no root of bitterness, troubled” him. He speaks with respect of the Governor, gives him credit for good intentions, and acknowledges the many benefits he conferred upon the colony; and when at length he was on the eve of returning home, Governor Macquarie himself bore testimony to the piety, integrity, and invaluable services of the only man who had dared patiently yet firmly to contend with him during a long course of years.
Mr. Marsden rose early, generally at four o'clock during the summer; and the morning hours were spent in his study. In the early days of the colony, Mr. Marsden used to officiate in the morning at St. Philip's, Sydney. Roads page 57 were bad and conveyances scarce, and he often walked fifteen miles to Parramatta, where he conducted another service and preached again. His preaching is described as very plain, full of good sense and manly thought, and treating chiefly of the great foundation truths of the Gospel. Those who came to hear a great preacher went away disappointed; those who came to pass a listless hour were sometimes grievously disturbed.
The authenticity of the following anecdote has been assured to us by Mr. Marsden's friends:—He was one day walking by the banks of the river, when a convict as he passed plunged into the water. Mr. Marsden threw off his coat, and in an instant plunged in after him and endeavoured to bring the man to land. He, however, contrived to get Mr. Marsden's head under the water, and a desperate struggle for life ensued between them; till Mr. Marsden, being the stronger of the two, succeeded, not only in getting safe to shore, but also in dragging the man with him.
The poor fellow, struck with remorse, confessed his intention. He had resolved to have his revenge on the senior chaplain, whose offence was that he had preached a sermon which had stung him to the quick; and he believed that the preacher had meant to hold him up to the scorn of the congregation. He knew, too, that the sight of a drowning fellow-creature would draw out the instant help of one who never knew what fear was in the discharge of duty; and he threw page 58 himself into the stream confident of drowning Mr. Marsden, and then of making good his own escape. He became very penitent, was a useful member of society, and greatly attached to his deliverer, who afterwards took him into his own service, where he remained for some years. We cannot give a more painful illustration of the malignity with which he was pursued, than to state that the current version of this story in the colony was that the convict had been unjustly punished by Mr. Marsden as a Magistrate, and took this method of revenge.
Yet his duties as principal chaplain were not neglected. From a General Government Order, dated September, 1810, it appears that amongst them were those of an overseer, or chief pastor of the Church. “The assistant chaplains are directed to consider themselves at all times under the immediate control and superintendence of the principal chaplain, and are to make such occasional reports to him respecting their clerical duties as he may think proper to require or call for.” This is a high tribute to his worth under the circumstances in which he was placed by his opposition to the Governor. The chaplains frequently sought his protection against arbitrary power, and he willingly fought their battles and his own in defence of liberty of conscience and the right of conducting worship undisturbed.
His connection with his clerical brethren seems to have been uniformly happy, and the same remark is true of the missionaries of various denominations, not a few in number, who, during a period of twenty years, were virtually under his control. He had undoubtedly the rare power of governing others in a very high degree, and it was done noiselessly and with a gentle hand; for the men who govern well seldom obtrude their authority in an page 60 offensive manner, or worry those they should control with a petty interference. He had the same kind of influence, and probably from the same cause, over the very horses in his carriage. He used, in driving from Sydney to Parramatta, to throw the reins behind the dash-board, take up his book, and leave them to themselves, his maxim being “that the horse that could not keep itself up was not worth driving.” One of the pair was almost unmanageable in other hands, but it was remarked that “Captain” always conducted himself well when his master drove, and never had an accident.
Amongst his strictly pastoral cares, two schools for orphans had a foremost place. A female orphan school was first proposed, and Mr. Marsden undertook the direction of the work, and became treasurer to the institution. From its formation in 1800 to the year 1821, two hundred children were admitted. A male orphan school followed in due course, in which the boys were instructed in some trade, and then apprenticed. In both schools the moral and religious training was the chief consideration; yet Mr. Marsden's connection with them was attributed by his enemies to a sordid motive, and even those in power, who should have known him better, gave public currency to these injurious reports.
The fact was that when the institutions were founded the treasurer was allowed a small percentage upon the receipts, as a clerical fee or stipend; this he allowed to accumulate until he resigned the office, when he presented the whole page 61 sum to the institution. The committee absolutely refusing to accept it, he purchased cattle from the Government to the full amount, and made a present of them to the orphan schools.
Soon after his return from England it became necessary to erect new schools. The work was long and tedious, and, owing to the want of labour in the colony, and the idle and drunken habits of the labourers, nearly ten years elapsed before they were completed, and the work too was often at a stand for want of funds. These, however, Mr. Marsden—whom no pecuniary obstacles could daunt—supplied in a great measure out of his own purse, till his advances amounted to nearly £900; and his disinterested conduct in the end occasioned him very considerable loss. To the latest period he never ceased to take the warmest interest in the prosperity of these institutions.
“I am sure,” says his daughter, “my father's parish was not neglected. He was well known to all his parishioners, as he was in the habit of constantly calling upon them. He was very attentive to the sick, whether at their own homes or at the Government hospital. He also took great interest in the education of the young. It was through his instrumentality that many schools were established. His Sunday School, at the time of which I speak, was in a more efficient state than any I have since seen; but this my brother-in-law, the Rev. T. Hassell, had a great deal to do with, as he was then acting as my father's curate. The factory for the reception of female convicts was page 62 built entirely by his suggestion, and to their religious and moral improvement he devoted a good deal of his time. It was principally owing to his endeavours to get this and other institutions in good order that much of his discomfort with his fellow-magistrates and Government officers arose.”
Governor Macquarie, after consulting Mr. Marsden, attempted to establish a farm for the Australian natives, and, in connection with it, a kind of reformatory school at Parramatta, where they were to be civilized and cured of their migratory habits, and instructed in the Christian religion. Mr. Marsden took a warm interest in the scheme, as he did in everything that concerned the welfare of the aborigines. Still it failed; for it was founded, as experience has shown, upon wrong principles. Mr. Marsden, however, is not to be blamed for this; as Governor Macquarie, having now conceived a violent prejudice against him, omitted his name from the Committee of Management, although the institution was placed in his own parish, introducing those of two junior chaplains; and it was not till the Governor's retirement that he took an active part in its affairs. But the character of the institution was then fixed, and its approaching failure was evident.
Mr. Marsden's view of the Australian native's character may be gathered from the following statement, which he published in self-defence when charged with indifference as to their conversion: “More than twenty years ago, a native lived with me at Parramatta, and page 63 for a while I thought I could make something of him; but at length he got tired, and no inducement could prevail upon him to continue in my house; he took to the bush again, where he has continued ever since. One of my colleagues, the Rev. R. Johnstone, took two native girls into his house, for the express purpose of educating them; they were fed and clothed like Europeans; but in a short time they went into the woods again. Another native, named Daniel, was taken when a boy into the family of Mrs. C.; he was taken to England; mixed there with the best society, and could speak English well; but on his return from England he reverted to his former wild pursuits.”
Without multiplying instances quoted by Mr. Marsden, the trial he made with an infant shows that his heart was not unfriendly towards these people: “One of my boys, whom I attempted to civilize, was taken from its mother's breast, and brought up with my own children for twelve years; but he retained his instinctive taste for native food; and he wanted that attachment to me and my family that we had just reason to look for; and always seemed deficient in those feelings of affection which are the very bonds of social life.”
This boy ran away at Rio from Mr. Marsden, when returning from England in 1810, but was brought back to the colony by Captain Piper; and died in the Sydney hospital, exhibiting Christian faith and penitence.page 64
“I mentioned to the Governor,” he adds, “some of these circumstances, but not with any view to create difficulties; so far from it, that I informed him that I was authorised by the Church Missionary Society to assist any plan with pecuniary aid that was likely to benefit the natives of the colony.” A mission was in fact set on foot by this Society; but from various causes it failed, and was abandoned.