1834 - MacDonell, Thomas. Extracts from Mr. M'Donnell's MS Journal - [Text]

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  1834 - MacDonell, Thomas. Extracts from Mr. M'Donnell's MS Journal - [Text]
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THE government of New Zealand approaches nearest to the feudal system. Landed, and even personal, property is held by hereditary tenure, which it would be imprudent to disturb. Landed property may easily be purchased; the consent of the principal chief being first obtained, the other branches of his tribe are easily won over to relinquish their shares. There are, however, vast tracts of rich country still unoccupied and unowned. With regard to population, New Zealand is but thinly inhabited. The North Island is more densely peopled than Poenammoo; I should say in the ratio of six to one in favour of the former. The land, too, is bettor cultivated on North Island, and the aborigines are far more civilised. Stewart's, or South Island, possesses few, if any, inhabitants, though in itself a very valuable island.

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The New Zealanders, generally speaking, are a fine athletic race of men, and capable of bearing much fatigue. They are keenly alive to shame, fond of military show; and those who have had intercourse with Europeans are bitterly sensible of their own degraded state. Indeed, I have observed that when any of the New Zealanders returned from visiting Sydney, particularly the chiefs, they were lowspirited, and drew comparisons between their own countrymen and the whites. "What were we before we knew the English? We knew nothing. We and our tribes were no better than our hogs and dogs. Now we are obtaining some knowledge; and our children will reap the benefit from your settling among us." 1 A New Zealand chief esteems it an honour for a white man to reside on his lands; and I have frequently been solicited to permit one of my men to "hoist a flag," and to remain stationary on the property of a chief. The acquiescence secures their friendship, and the contrary docs not forfeit it.

I shall briefly instance a few acts of daring bravery among the New Zealanders. Nene, one of the Hokianga chiefs, had one of his tribe killed. When he had ascertained the fact, and by whom,

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he took his musket, and alone entered the enemy's camp, where the offender, a young chief of twenty-eight, was sitting among others, and challenged him. On his rising and approaching Nene in a menacing attitude, the latter knocked him down with the but-end of his gun, shot him, and deliberately walked off without molestation.

Another great chief, whose name I do not at this moment recollect, had been surprised and taken prisoner, with his wife and family, and part of his tribe. He begged hard to take leave of his wife and children before he was put to death. After some debate his request was granted. The meeting was tender and affecting In the extreme. He knew that he must die; but the idea that his wife and children would become slaves, appeared to absorb his every faculty and wring his very soul. His fate was sealed, and escape utterly impossible. He embraced his wife and children for the last time, stabbed her and them in almost a moment of time; then smiled in derision on his enemies, as he exultingly told them, "My wife and my children are free!"

In the aggregate, however, I do not consider the New Zealanders as a brave race of men. Stratagem and cunning are the weapons chiefly used in their wars with each other. They are fond of their children; and are kind to their

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slaves, who, in a short time after capture, are considered as a part of their family. The women -- but where do they not? -- possess great kindness of heart; and those who are married seldom are guilty of an act of infidelity. Many instances of their devotion and attachment to their husbands are within my own knowledge. They mourn deeply and bitterly for a time; then generally end their griefs and their cares by some violent death.

The New Zealanders possess a very respectable share of intellect indeed, more so than the aborigines of the other islands, whether in the Southern or the Northern Pacific; they are quick, ingenious, and easily taught. I have seen many beautiful specimens of their workmanship, both in stone and wood, which for execution and finish could scarcely be excelled - certainly not by Europeans having the same rude implements to work with. They are fond of inquiry, and nothing escapes them. A secret is never safe with a New Zealander, though his own life depended on the keeping of it.

With respect to the conduct of the New Zealanders towards Europeans, I do consider that their character has been much traduced, - the white men have in almost every instance been the first aggressors. I have mixed a great deal among

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them, and at times been in situations where, if so disposed, they might have despatched me with ease - ay, and have eaten me too, without fear of detection. That the New Zealanders have been most cruelly used, abused, and illtreated by our countrymen, may not be denied; they have been trepanned and murdered - for what? - a few tons of flax! It must indeed be a very great provocation that will compel a New Zealander to wreak his vengeance on a white man - more particularly any Europeans who may be residing among them; and it would really appear that they have an intuitive respect, blended with fear, for an Englishman. Is it not, then, to be deeply lamented that we - I say we, because the English have had more intercourse with them than any other nation - do not adopt a more mild, friendly, and conciliating line of conduct towards them, which would at once secure to us their confidence and affection, instead of alienating both, by robbing, plundering, and deliberately murdering them, as some of our countrymen have done - and that, too, unprovoked, and in the most treacherous and cowardly manner? I solemnly declare, that when I was last at Sydney, I heard a person assert that he had lighted up such a war on the southeast side of New Zealand, as would take a very long period to extinguish. He was the master of a small craft that had just

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returned from New Zealand, and the namesake of a man, 2 if he may be called a man, who had previously signalised himself by carrying New Zealanders from port to port, for the "joke" of murdering each other! And yet these wretches are suffered to run their detestable course unpunished and unmolested. But it is to be hoped, when such diabolical practices are known to the English Government, that the strong arm of the law will be stretched forth to arrest a progress in crime, which, if not checked, must lead, at no remote period, to consequences of the most fatal nature, too fearful to contemplate.

Where the New Zealanders could have justice administered, their rights recognised, and their property secured by good and wholesome laws, they would, I am convinced, prove good subjects, and become a valuable acquisition to the colonist. New Zealanders do not drink. The aborigines are rapidly emerging from their pristine barbarism; and the disgusting crime of cannibalism is now less frequent among them. Were the country colonised, this iniquitous custom would cease altogether; for the detestation which the crime excites in Europeans does not escape the New Zealander's penetration, and makes him ashamed to acknowledge

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it in their presence. They are getting more attached to agricultural pursuits; and some of their grounds are very prettily laid out. Implements of husbandry are now more sought after, and woollens are in greater demand. I should fain hope that the time is not far distant when we shall see them clothed in an English garb, for which they are gradually acquiring a liking.

Here is a country, upwards of 900 miles in extent (the three islands), presenting an area of 87,400 square miles, or 55,936,000 acres; a country admirably adapted to take off the surplus population of Great Britain, affording food, and a shelter, and a HOME, for the poorer classes of society -- ay, and the middling classes too; a country wherein all the necessaries of life are amply provided - where Nature is lavish of her bounties - where the richness of the soil can only be exceeded by the beauty of the country - where the very air breathes a freshness and purity that gives elasticity to the spirits, and renders the mind cheerful and happy. I have been in most parts of the globe; but never did I experience a finer or a more equalised climate; the atmosphere is delightfully bland and healthy; the sun may strike warm in summer - and so it does - but I have never found it oppressive, for the mild and mellow showers that frequently ??end to refresh the land, drive away

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that languor often experienced in the same parallel of latitude elsewhere.

The rivers are well stocked with fine fish, in great variety - the very creeks swarm with them. There are abundance of lobsters, crawfish, oysters, prawns, and shrimps; besides clams, peppies, muscles, limpets, and cockles.

The New Zealand potato (red and white) needs no praise of mine; there are two crops of them annually. There are also two crops of the kumeroe (red and white); it is a species of the sweet potato, smaller, though far superior in every way; it may be eaten either raw or boiled, is very nutritious, and contains a great portion of saccharine matter. Large quantities of Indian corn are now raised; and there is no lack of cabbages, greens, turnips, a particularly fine species of the yam, with other esculent roots. Peaches are plentiful in the season at Hokianga; figs, grapes, oranges, melons, and the Cape gooseberry, thrive uncommonly well. There are several species of the native fruit, very pleasant and grateful to the taste. Strawberries and raspberries grow in abundance. The wheat raised at New Zealand is admitted to be far superior to any produced either in New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land.

This beautiful country only wants colonising to render it flourishing in every vegetable production

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of nature; in fact, there is an abundant and a neverfailing supply of all the necessaries, and most of the comforts of life, in New Zealand, were her population twenty times more numerous than it now is. Hogs are plentiful, and very cheap; these, with large quantities of potatoes, are frequently shipped off for New South Wales.

There is a great variety of wild fowl in New Zealand; among the number are ducks, geese, woodcocks, curlews, and snipes. The New Zealand pigeon is as splendidly beautiful in plumage as it is exquisitely delicious to the taste. There are other birds on the southern parts of Poenammoo and South Island unknown to naturalists.

The soil of New Zealand is uncommonly rich, and easy of culture; the country is undulating, and the hills, in many parts, rise with a gradual ascent, until they terminate in lofty mountains, clothed with verdure all the way up. No country in the world is more blessed with fine navigable rivers, streams, and creeks, affording a facility of water-conveyance unknown to the husbandman of New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land. No blighting winds have dominion here, nor drought to ruin the farmer; neither is the thermometer subject to those sudden changes that characterise it in New South Wales. Here the husbandman may send the fruits of his labour either to the Bay

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of Islands, Mia Pari, the Thames, Towranga, or Muckatoa, on the eastern side of North Island; on the western side, Hokianga, Kypara, Manakou, Kafia, Muckna, and other ports, present safe outlets for shipping off produce. Poenammoo offers the same advantages, in every respect.

It may be mentioned, that the great drawback to New South Wales has been, and is, her want of watercarriage and safe harbours. I know of none where ships may securely load, except at Port Jackson; and where produce is sent a distance of from three hundred to four hundred miles by land-carriage, the profits arising from the sale cannot but poorly pay the grower, and must cramp the industry of the farmer. Nearly all the upcountry settlers have been ruined; nor is this all that the husbandman of New South Wales has to contend with, leaving the friendly visits of the bushrangers out of the question. The country is subject to hot and blighting winds, which are often immediately succeeded by cold southerly gales. Drought and dreadful inundations take it by turns to spread devastation and ruin over the land; the torrents, at times descending with terrific violence, sweep off the labour of years, leaving the farmer houseless and desolate, to brood over the shattered wreck of his property - that is, if any wreck be left. The quick transition from heat to cold must

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necessarily kill vegetation. That this change is manifestly injurious to health, needs not my assertion; the thermometer has been known to vary twenty-five degrees in fifty minutes! The evils here complained of are not known in New Zealand, nor is there a venomous reptile on the islands.

Poenammoo (Middle Island) is also the land of wild and picturesque scenery; a lofty chain of mountains extend its whole length, with rich valleys between, whereby a communication can easily be opened with the southeast and the northwest parts of the island. From the mountains several rivers take their rise, emptying themselves on either side of the island into the Pacific; some of them navigable for large vessels. On the southwest end of this island there is a majestic river (the Shannon), with numerous branches; one of which winds its course into a beautiful lagoon; another may be traced and navigated upwards of seventy miles, through a country which, for grandeur of scenery, stands unrivalled. The land is rich, thickly wooded in some places, with abundance of level ground for all the purposes of cultivation. About forty miles from the lagoon, in a northerly direction, is a freshwater lake, of from sixty to seventy miles in circumference. In an easterly direction, and about thirty miles from the latter, is the splendid "Lake of Greenstones," so named

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from the quantities of jade found on its banks; it is soft when first dug up; but, by exposure to the air, becomes as hard as agate, and semitransparent; in appearance it is similar to the Mona marble, though much finer.

Poenammoo possesses fine safe harbours, beautiful rivers, and numerous bays. Milford Haven is a noble harbour; the scenery around is magnificent, and there is plenty of flax and timber in its neighbourhood. Stewart's, or South Island, though small, is nevertheless of great importance; it can boast of a beautiful harbour, equal in every respect to that of Sydney - and, indeed, superior; inasmuch as it commands three safe entrances; with the same security. To the northward of this harbour, and opposite Bench Island, is Pattenson's River, navigable for large vessels. There are several other smaller harbours and bays, independent of the above. Seals are numerous in the season, and the island abounds in flax and splendid forests of "cawdie." The black-whale fishery may be carried on to any extent in the bays on the southeast shores of New Zealand, but more particularly on Poenammoo; the outlays need be but trifling, and the profits must be great. The sperm whale abounds on either side of New Zealand. I have seen shoals of them on my passages from Hokianga to Sydney, and back.

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The phormium, or flaxplant, grows in wild luxuriance throughout the three islands of New Zealand; it is indigenous to the country, and perennial; the leaves averaging from six to ten feet in length. The plant throws an abundance of seed. The hill-flax is of a finer texture, whiter, and stronger, than that grown in the valleys, though the staple may not be quite so long. With attention to the cutting of the flax in the proper season, and common care paid to its cultivation, I feel convinced of its superiority over that of Russia and Manilla; it possesses all the flexibility of the former, it is free from the wiry brittleness of the latter. I can have no hesitation in asserting, that thousands of tons of this valuable article of commerce may be shipped off annually from New Zealand to the mother-country; nor do I assert this merely from my own observation and knowledge of the country, but I am borne out by the information that I have received from several of the chiefs and intelligent natives, with whom I have conversed on this subject. I might safely say, that New Zealand could supply all Europe with ease. Fair play has not generally been given to the flax sent home via Sydney; in many instances the plant has not been cut in the proper season - a very material point, for then the flax is coarse and wiry, the fibres ragged and not easily

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cleaned, the staple short, and the colour foxey. Another cause that has operated to render the New Zealand flax objectionable at home, is the twisting of the staple in packing, which prevents the flax hackling freely; not packing it thoroughly dry, and allowing the pressure of the screw to be on the bend. Cut the plant at the right season, let the flax be well dried, carefully packed in lengths, and screwed; then the superiority of the New Zealand hemp over that of Europe will be manifest, and those prejudices that once existed will vanish for ever.

All the standing, and part of the running rigging of the Sir George Murray, a ship of 400 tons, belonging to myself, was laid up from New Zealand flax; it had been over the mastheads for nearly three years. I can state, that better rope never crossed a ship's masthead. I have experienced some very heavy gales in the Sir George Murray, consequently the rigging had been well tried; when lifted and examined, it was found (barring being slightly chafed) as good as when first put over; the running rigging wore uncommonly well. Her spars, one and all, were of New Zealand pine (cawdie); they were faultless. Cordage and fishing-lines, made from good New Zealand flax, has been proved to be far more durable than any made from European hemp.

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With respect to timber; in no country on the face of the globe does it grow to such a towering height, and in such perfection. The noble and extensive forests of New Zealand offer such a superabundant source as the profusion of future generations can never exhaust, not only for shipbuilding, but various other purposes. Here are several species of the pine, of which the "cawdie" is the king; it is a splendid tree, growing to a stupendous height; even the majestic pines of America and Norway dwindle into insignificance, when compared with those of New Zealand. I have measured some of them upwards of thirty feet in circumference, nor did I go out of my way to do this; here are numerous single sticks, as straight as an arrow, and fit for masting any three-decker in the Navy. Some of the pines, though large, are really fit for any other purpose besides that of sparring a ship. The cawdie is a tough, stringy, and generally a twisted spar; the very great similarity between it and other pines, as they lie mingled together, will prevent a superficial glance from discriminating between them. To prevent mistake, let a slice be taken from each sort, when it will be found, on breaking, that the cawdie maybe twisted in every way, and some difficulty experienced in separating the parts; the others break off pretty short. Can it be wondered, then, that objections

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should be raised at home, when so many of the latter description have been mixed with those cargoes shipped off from New Zealand for London? I was at Hokianga when a vessel, named the Elizabeth, left with a cargo of spars for Valparaiso. I know that there were not twenty of the cawdie among them. Her commander was an ignorant man; he wanted spars, and he got them. Surely this loose mode of acting must depreciate the character of the New Zealand timber!

A great variety of hardwood grows at New Zealand, admirably adapted for the timbering of any sized ships; among them is the boride, rattar, taraide, mai, totara, koi katoa, toa toa, tani raha, to wai, reiva reiva, tana, and many others. I shall merely particularise the boride and rattar, because my own ship was built of these; as also another beautiful vessel, the New Zealander. I have examined the timbers of the latter (she had then been running upwards of seven years); they were quite fresh and perfect, without the slightest signs of decay; those of my own ship were as sound as on the day they were first put in. The boride is a finelimbed, large, and spreading tree; very crooked, closegrained, stringy, and tough; much resembling teak; of a darker colour, harder, and of an oily nature. The rattar is a beautiful, lofty, spreading tree; very hard, stringy, and tough;

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closegrained, and in appearance not unlike the live oak. The others which I have enumerated, so far as I could judge, seemed equally well adapted for ship-building. There is a great variety of other trees, of a lesser growth, that are very closely grained, and which take a high polish, bringing out beautifully variegated veins, and admirably adapted for fancy work and furniture. Dye woods are in great variety and abundance. Cotton would grow luxuriantly at New Zealand. Coffee, sugar, indigo, and rice, would succeed well on the North Island, as also all the tropical fruits.

New Zealand, more particularly Poenammoo, is yet but little known. That it is rich both in mineral as well as vegetable productions is a fact that is incontrovertible; for I have carried some specimens of silver and tin to Sydney, also a large quantity of iron ore, which prove the former; and the vegetable kingdom is too well known for me to say any thing on that head.

When a more extensive knowledge is obtained, the value of New Zealand will be justly estimated. It is a country blessed with a heavenly climate and a very fertile soil; as a poor man's country, it is without a parallel. Its very situation is a commanding one, and teems with advantages, both in a mercantile and a political point of view, which must render its possession a desirable acquisition

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to any country. Here is indeed a rich field for natural research - here is an opening for the enterprising and the industrious. I am assured, that when New Zealand is colonised, those extensive and beautiful islands in the Southern Pacific, that have so long remained hidden from the knowledge of the world, will gradually be brought to light; for a communication with them will and must be the necessary consequence. We know that the New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, with the Louisiade Archipelago, are well peopled. New Caledonia, to the southwest of the New Hebrides, extends about 230 miles northwest and southeast, and appears far from being thinly inhabited. The latter extensive island is only five days' sail from New Zealand. A trade opened between New Zealand and those islands would, in all probability, furnish a mart for the consumption of British piece goods, and many other articles of British manufacture - eventually paving the way for their general civilisation, and, consequently, an extensive mercantile intercourse. I do most positively assert, that I know one of those islands (no matter in what group) to be particularly rich in one article of commerce.

Give New Zealand but respectable settlers from home, with a moderate share of encouragement from the Government, and a very short period will

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develope her resources, and place her among the most respectable of the colonies of Great Britain; and that, too, without expense to the English Government. She will become the garden, the depot, and the granary of the Pacific. Her climate, her fertility of soil, her very many fine rivers (interspersing the country), harbours, and bays, supply her with such powerful and commanding advantages, independent of her situation, as must tend to the rapid increase of her prosperity. New Holland must ultimately give way; and the trade between the latter and the parent country cannot but eventually flow to New Zealand. I am not singular in this my opinion. I again repeat, that the colonising of New Zealand will open a fresh vein for the lucrative investment of British capital, stimulate mercantile enterprise, and furnish employment for thousands of our poor countrymen, particularly the manufacturing classes, It is a subject not unworthy of the British Government; and I do most sincerely hope that they will give it their serious consideration.

In the event of a war between Great Britain and the northern powers of Europe, the value of New Zealand would be felt, inasmuch as no fears need be entertained in regard to an ample supply both of timber and flax; besides, the capital now laid out in the purchase of these important articles

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of commerce would necessarily flow into the hands of our own countrymen, instead of falling into those of foreigners - to the benefit of Great Britain, and the enriching of her subjects.,



J.Moyes, 28, Castle Street, Leicester Square.

1   Speech of Motier, a Hokianga chief.
2   Captain Stewart, of the Elizabeth.

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