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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, April 04 (1840)


The New Zealand Church Mission.

No one who has the slightest interest, whether direct or indirect, present or future, in the affairs of New Zealand, can long remain indifferent to the proceedings of the Missions which have been for some years established in those islands. Among these establishments that of the Church Missionary Society stands preeminent, on account of the large funds at its disposal (about £90,000 a year), and it has further acquired an unenviable notoriety by reason of the scandalous misapplication of its funds by some of its missionaries in New Zealand.
On the subject of this misapplication, a controversy* has arisen between"a clergymen,"who is a member of the Church Missionary Society, and"a Member of the Committee,"the nature of which we are about to submit to our readers.
Controversies of an ordinary kind we have no disposition to enter into, but the character of the New Zealand Missionaries is a matter of such paramount importance to the new Colony, that, if apology be at all necessary, it is for having so long neglected to bring the whole subject before our readers.
The origin of the controversy was this:—Mr. Dandeson Coates in a pamphlet which we have quoted in the note, thought fit to make a most unjustifiable and dishonest attack, full of the grossest misrepresentations upon the New Zealand Association of 1837. This produced a very able reply from Mr. E. G. Wakefield, also quoted in the note, in which was announced for the first time, in words taken down from the mouth of Mr. Flatt, a Lay Missionary or Catechist of the Church Mission, that the Missionaries of the Society in New Zealand had made large purchases of land from the natives out of the funds, as it should seem, which ought to have been devoted to their conversion to Christianity.
The cost of the New Zealand Mission is no less than £16,000, it has been upwards of twenty years in existence, and yet in 1837, the number of native communicants was said to be no more than 151!* and at this moment does not probably number 500. Now, if this cost is complained of, we may expect it to be urged with a sort of holy horror, that the conversion of the heathen to christianity is a matter not to be weighed against money, to which we answer simply that it is. Money it does and must always cost—money to the extent of £16,000 is annually expended in the conversion of the New Zealanders, and if £100 is spent where £10 should suffice, we at once see the reason why the 150 is not 1500, The effect of the enormous and wasteful expenditure of the Society's funds then is clearly to reduce the conversions to the minimum. Truly the enemies to the conversion of the natives ought to rejoice in the New Zealand Mission, as the most eminent check to the progress of Christianity. Twenty years of missionary labour—between one and two hundred thousand pounds expended, and just one hundred and fifty-one communicants!
It seems truly wonderful that this most monstrous result never induced the committee to institute an inquiry into the mode of. expenditure pursued in the country, but until Mr. Flatt made his statement, neither the committee nor the secretary were at all aware of the extent of the Missionary purchases. We shall only quote two cases from the list of purchases by Missionaries:—
The Rev. Henry Williams no less than 4000 acres, about 15 miles from the Bay of Islands. Mr. Williams has commenced farming there, and has sheep, cattle, and horses, farm buildings built by natives, and an American superintendent. He employs about 30 natives. He visits the establishment two or three times a week, he sells the produce to the mission.
Mr. William Fairburn, catechist, owns small tracts of land at the Bay of Islands, adjoining the Mission Station of Paihia. He has recently purchased a very extensive tract, supposed to extend for thirty miles in its greatest length, at Tamaka, in the frith of the Thames. This purchase took place in January, 1836. The contract was drawn up in native and English, by the Rev. H. Williams, chairman of the committee, and was signed by him and Mr. Flatt as witnesses. Mr. Fairburn has obtained leave from the committee to commence a farming establishment on this purchase, with the assistance of his eldest son.
Now, the consequence of thus depriving the natives of their land, without some systematic provision for them, such as the New Zealand Company have adopted, for instance, is to destroy them. The native population is rapidly decreasing in the neighbourhood of the missionary settlements. Mr. King reporting of the Tepuna station as follows:—"Once we were settled in the midst of a populous people bent on war and plunder; but now they are much reduced in number through disease and death, war and bloodshed."§
And how should it be otherwise, when deprived of their land, without other provision, they are in a manner compelled to wage war against their fellow-men to obtain land to replace that of which they have been deprived. Indeed, indeed, is systematic Colonisation required in New Zealand to counteract the dire effects of Colonisation of the kind which has taken place, headed, though it be by the rapacious portion of the Church Missionaries.
And how did the Society meet this grave charge? Did they institute an inquiry with a view to its denial or confirmation? No. They wrote out to the Missionaries themselves asking for
explanations. Now, was so monstrous a mode of inquiry into a grave charge ever before heard of? Yet it is the common practice among official persons, to permit the accused to report upon his own case. The New Zealand Missionaries' report of themselves will, doubtless, be flattering.
For a long time the committee studiously avoided the subject. Two annual reports appeared without any allusion thereto;* at last, however, the committee seems to have found out that absolute silence had become obnoxious to the members of the society, and a paper was prepared, and has since been printed relative to the New Zealand Missions. Speaking of this document, the clergyman says:—
"If it had contained even a moderate expression of displeasure at the course pursued, and at the same time held out any assurance that the present cause of scandal would be removed, your Lordship should not have been troubled with this letter: but it does neither the one nor the other. It recites, in the first place, the following resolution, passed December 4th, 1838, in which the only regret expressed is on account of reference and communication having been neglected—
'While the Committee give the Missionaries entire credit for the purity of their motives in the purchases of land which they have made in New Zealand with a view to provide for their families as they grow up, and are not prepared, on the information now before them, to condemn the purchases so made, they very much regret that the subject was not referred to them for their consideration previously to the Missionaries entering on such a course of proceeding; and that the nature and extent of the purchase, in each case, were not reported to them for their sanction, as directed by their resolution of July 27th, 1830.'
"Reference is then made to portions of land held by the Missionaries in trust for the natives. This, however, has nothing to do with the charge brought forward by Mr. Flatt; the portions of land held for the benefit of the natives, are quite distinct from those which the Missionaries are alleged to have purchased for themselves. It is somewhat remarkable, also, that in the paper just published by the Committee, this interposition is pronounced a judicious and beneficial proceeding, when it is directly contrary to a recommendation previously sent to New Zealand.
"In the next place, there follow two resolutions adopted for future regulation:—
'That with respect to the purchase of land by Missionaries with the funds of the Society, the resolution of July 27th, 1830, explained by the letter of July 13th, 1835, be adhered to as defining the limits and purposes to which all such purchases are to be confined.
'That with regard to purchases of land by Missionaries out of their private resources, or otherwise independently of the Society, while the Committee disapprove of such transactions in general, as liable to prejudice the character and usefulness of the Missionaries, they do not feel themselves justified in assuming to lay down a prohibitory rule upon their conduct in respect to such purchases, except so far as they may involve the above consequences; and that in order to the Committee's exercising such a control as the interests of the Society demand, they desire that any purchase of this description made by a Missionary, be entered on the minutes of the Missionary Committee of the district, with all particulars respecting the same; and that such minute be forwarded to the Home Committee by the earliest opportunity afterward.'
"The terms of these resolutions are vague enough to admit the recurrence of the very evils of which we complain; at the same time no hint is given of any remedy proposed for the present condition of affairs.
"The remainder of the paper is mainly occupied by the testimony of several persons to the character and usefulness of the Missionaries. But I need not remind your Lordship, that in order to estimate the value of any evidence, we must take into account the degree of impartiality with which it has been quoted. I am compelled to question the fairness with which these extracts have been made: since I find, on examination, passages of a totally different character, which oblige me to make considerable deduction from the first favourable impression. Captain Fitzroy, from whose work large quotations are made in commendation of the Mission, mentions his disappointment at seeing the filthy condition of the natives and their huts, immediately round the dwellings of the Missionaries; and states as the excuse, that the numerous and increasing avocations of the latter engrossed all their time. The same respectable witness, in his examination before the Committee of the House of Lords, made a similar report of the engagements by which their days are absorbed, to the hindrance of their more appropriate work. He complains also of the mean aspect of the chapels, which are low and little better than schoolrooms, while he found the Mission-store a handsome building of stone, having its tower and clock. He observed also, that no progress had been made in native agriculture, even on the borders of the Mission-farm. The mode of cultivation was the same which prevailed when the islands were first discovered. It is, indeed, hard to understand how the secular department of the Mission has tended even to any temporal benefit. The supply of corn by tallage rather than by importation, has not prevented the annual expenditure from reaching an extravagant amount, while the example of our husbandry has produced little or no effect on the New Zealander." * * * "But if nothing had been reported but what is favourable, the question in hand would have been left untouched. To offer evidence on one point in answer to a specific accusation on another, is a fallacy by which no one will be deceived. The Missionaries are charged with holding land to an enormous amount; and it is besides the mark to be told, even on the highest and most respectable authority, that they are men of pious and devotional character."—A Clergyman, p. 15, 21.
It thus appears that the charge remains unanswered, nay, uncontradicted, and even unexplained by the committee.
Recently, however, a champion has come into the field, in the person of "one of the committee," to whom "a Clergyman" has replied in "a Second Letter to the Earl of Chichester."
That which will necessarily strike the reader of the Brief Reply, on a very careful perusal is, that in the midst of much criticism of the "Clergyman's" Letter, the charge is avoided. The Member of the Committee occupies himself with the question whether inquiry was, or was not delayed, but he does not deny the charge—he merely resorts to the worn-out claim of a fair trial. He says:—
"I am not standing forward to exculpate the Missionaries in reference to their purchases of land:—I only claim for them a fair trial. This as men—and especially as missionary men, separated from us at the greatest possible distance—they are on every principle of justice and equity entitled to expect at our hands."—Brief Reply, p. 15.
Granted; but why not then try them. The Committee have in their own hands the power of instituting a "fair trial," and yet a Member of the Committee asks it in a manner to lead the public to believe that the accused missionaries themselves wanted a "fair trial," but that the Clergyman's party denied them the privilege. It is a "fair trial" that the Clergyman demands. Let it be ascertained if Mr. Flatt's statement be true, and if so, let the delinquents be dismissed and degraded, if it be merely out of regard to the fair reputation of the Society, which every member thereof is certainly interested in pursuing.
The "Clergyman," in his Second Letter, thus characterises the Brief Reply:—
"When I addressed my former Letter to your Lordship, it was in the earnest hope that by this appeal the Committee of the Church Missionary Society would have been induced to vindicate, or to change their course. They have done neither. I conclude that they found the former impossible, and that for the latter they were not prepared. Under these circumstances, to preserve silence was, perhaps, an instance of discretion. But what they declined as a body, has been undertaken by an individual of their number; with, I think, but a moderate amount of success. His reply contains no denial of abuses alleged to exist; no assurance to the world that the Missionaries have been unjustly charged with holding immense tracts of land in New Zealand; no promise that measures will be taken for the prompt and thorough correction of the evil, and that the possibility of its recurrence will be prevented. These would be very satisfactory assurances, but we look for them in vain. We have in their place the worn-out plea of imperfect information, urged in 1840 in reference to a case which was made public in 1837; and an entreaty for further delay and a longer suspension of judgment. There is some debating on minor points, and some declamation on things irrelevant to the subject; but the main question is left untouched, and the very specific charge which I adduced against the Committee at home, as well as against seven members of the Missionary body in New Zealand, remains unrefuted."
The Clergyman then proceeds to place the Committee of management in rather an awkward dilemma:—
"If the Committee are prepared with a vindication of the course which they have followed, the interests of the society require that they should produce it without delay. If they have none which could satisfy calm and fair-judging men, they are bound, by every consideration of duty, to do what they may, by the use of vigorous measures, towards restoring the confidence which has been shaken by their procrastination and supineness. To throw the mantle of excuse over things which no one is able to defend—to hinder justice by delay—to publish what is favourable, and to suppress what is adverse—will, in the long run, have no other effect than to take the heart out of all effort in behalf of the society, and to give a strange advantage to the sceptic and the scorner."
There is rather a curious circumstance connected with the discussion, which is thoroughly exposed in the Clergyman's two letters. Mr. Dandeson Coates, in the pamphlet which we have quoted in the first note of this article, wherein he attacked the New Zealand and Association of 1837, stated that "it was in the highest degree improbable that tracts of sufficient extent would be acquired of the Colonising Association for their purposes," because "the Missionaries had found it difficult to obtain land enough for the public objects of the society." But the Missionaries could obtain land enough for their private objects, as we have just seen. Moreover, it was asserted that land could not be acquired without fraud, "because the barbarism of the natives would make it quite impossible to make them comprehend the ultimate consequences to themselves of such an arrangement." On these statements the clergyman remarks:—
"This seems like a censure by anticipation upon the Missionaries who have obtained land. It was written, indeed, in perfect ignorance of the course which for years they had been pursuing, and the argument was directed against colonists who were thought likely to be guilty of the wrong; it is certainly not less availing when applied to parties by whom it has been actually committed, * * * It is discreditable enough when any persons practised in affairs, take advantage of those who cannot be made to understand the value of what they sell; but when ministers and teachers of religion have used their spiritual influence for the advancement of their secular benefit among the poor ignorant people to whom they were sent for a very different purpose, I do not wonder, though I am very sorry, that the Committee should take pains to prevent it from being known and believed."
The income of the Church Missionary Society, as we have already stated, amounts to upwards of ninety thousand pounds per annum. The benevolent members of the society, in many instances, contribute their subscriptions only at a great personal sacrifice; hence, it is lamentable that their object should have been so completely neglected, and the enormous expenditure of the society should have been productive of such insignificant results. On this point the Clergyman observes:—
"To be referred to the general prosperity of our missions, would be no satisfactory answer to the specific charges which have been adduced, even if it could be proved to exist. We are told, indeed, that 'the
operations of the Society have received a signal blessing from God, but that the funds for their maintenance fall lamentably short of what is needed.' The former part of the statement might seem unquestionable if we derived our information solely from the speeches and writings of zealous advocates; but when we carefully compare the amount of the means employed and of the results attained, as they appear in the last Annual Report, we shall be compelled to demur, and indeed to question whether so remarkable a disparity between the two could be discovered in the records of any similar institution. The yearly expenditure has reached more than 90,000l., while the number of converts in communion with the Church at all the various stations' [throughout the world] 'is no more than 2,721. Of these, 1,075 belong to the West African station, which is comparatively small, leaving the remainder for the vast field of operation which the Society occupies. We have been accustomed to hear accounts of great success delivered in so unhesitating a tone that we have forgotten to look into the data on which they are based. When we begin to do so, we find little cause for exultation, but much to make us inquire thoughtfully and humbly whether there may not be some cause, chargeable upon ourselves, why the Divine blessing is, in so considerable a degree, witheld."
Towards the conclusion of the Brief Reply the member of the Committee regrets the course of proceeding adopted by the Clergyman, as being "well calculated to injure the Church Missionary Society, and check the progress of the blessed work in which, it is engaged, and in which it has been so greatly prospered." This is a great, but a very common fallacy. It is not the Clergyman's course of proceeding, but the acts of which the Clergyman complains, which are calculated to check the progress of the blessed work. Let the Church Missionary Society act with firmness towards the delinquent Missionaries, and the "check" will be at once removed.
Before quitting the subject of the New Zealand Missions, it is necessary to allude to what we conceive to be a great error in the mode pursued by the Church Missionary Society, which is both described and condemned by Dr. Lang, in a paragraph which we extract from the second of his four letters to Lord Durham. The New Zealand Mission, he tells us,—
"Was originally established, and for a long time systematically conducted, on the principle of first civilising and then Christianising the natives, and for this purpose, a large number of artisans, of various handicrafts were engaged, some in England, and some in New South Wales, as lay-Missionaries, to teach the natives the various processes of civilised life. Reversing the apostolic plan, the missionary carpenter, the missionary boat builder, the missionary blacksmith, the missionary ploughman, the missionary rope-spinner, &c., were all set to work at their various occupations, and the natives were expected forthwith to imitate their example. In fact, the Mission settlement in New Zealand was for a long time a complete lumber-yard or factory, in which all sorts of labour were going on, except the proper labour of a Missionary—the very clergyman, for there was only one on the island, being in no respect different from a common agricultural labourer, except that he mounted a pulpit and read prayers in a surplice every Sunday. * * * Whether most of the individuals who were employed to work the preposterous system I have described, were originally bad men, or whether the system itself, (which utterly failed of accomplishing its primary object, the civilisation of the New Zealanders,) was calculated to make them so, I cannot determine; it is undeniable, however, that utter inefficiency and moral delinquency were for a long time, the characteristic features of the New Zealand Mission. * * * * Bad as some of the earlier Missionaries were, I consider the system under which they were acting, to have been much worse. Some of them mentioned that they were hired as mechanics, and had nothing to do with Missionary labour, properly so called. Others maintained they were engaged as Missionaries, and had nothing to do with agricultural employment. * * * For some time the Missionary settlement, with its workshops, its bell to ring the people in and out, &c., was an exact copy of the lumber-yard in Sydney, and some of the natives who had been in New South Wales were quick sighted enough to perceive the resemblance, and to act accordingly. For, when the stout Missionary ploughman, who was the only ordained Missionary on that Island at the time I allude to, arrayed himself in his canonicals and read prayers on Sunday, the natives shrewdly observed that he was the only Rangatira, or gentleman among them, and that the rest were only cookers, or slaves." Lang, p. 27, 29, 30.
The Clergyman in like manner condemns the pursuit of secular occupations by the Missionaries, and contends that the Missionary should at once be directed to confine himself to the business of Christianising. This would go far to remedy the evil exposed in the Clergyman's letter. He says—
"It is due to our Christian character that we should express a resolute determination of returning to true Missionary principles. The work of civilising may, now at least, be left in other hands. It will go forward without our help, and leave our resources free for our proper business of Christianising. It is a good thing that land should be held by settlers whose well-ordered lives present the gospel under its fairest aspect; but it is not to be desired that teachers of religion should be encumbered with the cares that belong to the possession and cultivation of the soil. The characters of Missionary and Colonist should be kept distinct; the usefulness of the former will be in proportion as it is made apparent that his object and motives are separate from those of the latter. It was a very insignificant and instructive law by which the Levites were precluded from possessing any larger territory than the few acres which formed the suburbs of their cities. 'No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.' Whatever would bring his motives into suspicion, or divert his attention from the business of Christian instruction, is a hindrance to the high and holy object to which he has consecrated himself. The terms are not too hard: they may form a reason why a man should decline to engage in an employment which involves so much self-sacrifice, but they must never be assigned as a ground for lowering the standard of missionary qualifications and devotedness. The office is one of the worthiest and most venerable which a human being can sustain. To leave home and country, and to go as God's soldier, trusting him for future protection and provision, is a noble triumph of faith; and it were a cold heart which would refuse its sympathy to the hardships and toils, and self-denials of such an one. But in proportion as there is sacredness thrown around the character of a Missionary, it must be jealously guarded from imputation. Its hold upon our affectionate reverence mainly results from the opinion of disinterestedness; and if this is brought into suspicion, as heavy a blow will have been inflicted on the cause which we love, as its worst enemies could desire. Our friends in New Zealand, then, must be recalled from the occupations which are more fit for secular men, to their higher duties as ministers and teachers of the gospel. Notice must be transmitted to them, that their possessions of land are incompatible with the character which belongs to their connexion with us."
It now only remains to add, that improvement has already commenced in the character of the New Zealand Mission, though it is still far from what it ought to be, and from what a searching inquiry and rigid reformation could without any great difficulty make it. In reference to the improvement that has taken place, and to the room which still exists for more, Dr. Lang says—
"Although I have reason to believe it (the Mission) is now purged from such enormities, (such as he had just described), and am happy to add that it has several excellent and Christian men zealously engaged in its most interesting field, there is still a most flagrant abuse tolerated and practised by the great majority of its members, of sufficient magnitude to neutralize the efforts even of a whole college of apostles." p. 32.
Although the "Member of the Committee" condemns the "Clergyman's" exposure, as calculated to bring the Mission into disrepute, we anticipate a much more gratifying effect therefrom—namely the remedying of the abuse complained of. If the Committee is sluggish in applying a remedy, the association itself—we mean the great body who contribute to its funds, at considerable privation in many cases to themselves—cannot but be pure and sincere in its motives. The Association has the ultimate control of the Committee of Management, and although we have not the rules or bye-laws in our possession, we feel assured that the Clergyman should work his reformation not through the Managing Committee, but through the great body of the Society.


A Letter to the Earl of Chichester, President of the Church Missionary Society, on some matters connected with the New Zealand Mission. By a Clergyman. Smith and Elder; 1840.
A Brief Reply to a Letter, &c. By a Member of the Committee. Hamilton & Co.; 1840.
A Second Letter to the Earl of Chichester, on the subject of the Church Missionary Society. By a Clergyman. Smith and Elder; 1840.
For further information respecting the New Zealand Missions, and the views of the Church Missionary Society, the reader may consult the following pamphlets:—
The Principles, Objects, and Plan of the New Zealand Association, in a Letter to the Bight Honourable Lord Glenelg. By Dandeson Coates, Esq. Hatchards; 1837.
Mr. Dandeson Coates and the New Zealand Association, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Lord Glenelg. By E. G. Wakefield, Esq.
The Church Missionary Record, for May and December; 1839.
New Zealand in 1839, or Four Letters to the Right Honourable Earl Durham, Governor of the New Zealand Company. By J. Dunmore Lang, D.D. Smith and Elder; 1839. (See The New Zealand Journal, No. II.)


Wakefield, p. 24.

Afterwards given in evidence before the Lords' committee.

Wakefield's letter, p. 20.


Church Missionary Record, Dec. 1837, p. 261.

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