CHAPTER III. HENRY WILLIAMS.
[Image of page 278]
IT was Mr. Marsden's fourth visit to New Zealand in August, 1823. He came in the ship Brampton. The mission party that he brought with him included, not only Messrs. Turner and Hobbs, for the Wesleyan mission at Wangaroa, but also the Rev. H. Williams, who began the formation of a new station at Paihia, in the Bay of Islands.
He had formerly held a commission as lieutenant in Her Majesty's navy, and had seen active service. He now engaged in a still nobler warfare; and he was well fitted for it: uniting a sound judgment with an ardent zeal, deep devotion with lofty principle, and a muscular frame with dauntless courage, he was suited, by natural as well as by acquired and moral faculties, to gain an ascendancy over the rude and turbulent natives; and this he did in a remarkable degree.
In later years, he was better known as the Rev. Archdeacon H. Williams. In 1826, he was joined by his brother William, who had been trained to the medical profession. The two brothers met in Sydney. H. Williams had gone thither in the Herald, on her first voyage. The vessel was built in the Bay, under his direction, and partly by his own hands. She was wrecked in the Hokianga, in 1828, whither she had
[Image of page 279]
gone to get supplies of potatoes. They took ship together for New Zealand, and landed at Paihia in the month of March.
The Rev. W. Williams had charge of the boarding-school for missionaries' children, at the Waimate. He translated the first version of the New Testament into Maori; and occupied, in after-days, an important station at Waiapu, on the south-east coast. When that district was formed into a diocese, he was consecrated Bishop. The natives had always called him by the familiar name of Parata (brother), but now it was exchanged for that of Pihopa (bishop).
His diocesan synod was composed chiefly of Maori clergymen. During the disastrous war he was a sufferer, and had to abandon his station. He was a man "greatly beloved" by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Full of years and their growing infirmities, so that he was no longer equal to the arduous duties of his episcopate, he resigned it only a year or two ago; and when we last heard from New Zealand, he was supposed to be on his death-bed. His memory will be embalmed in the affection of multitudes. 1
It is not the least praise of these excellent men that they retained their catholic-mindedness to the last. It was in the spirit of brotherly co-operation that the two societies began their work, and, as far as the old missionaries are concerned, they continued, shoulder to shoulder, in the good fight against "the world, the flesh, and the devil." There lies before me the copy of a characteristic letter which the good Archdeacon wrote to
[Image of page 280]
his old friend, the Rev. John Hobbs, on the forty-third anniversary of their landing. Here it is:--
"BAY OF ISLANDS, August 3rd, 1866.
"My dear old Friend,--Forty-three years this day we entered together the Bay of Islands. It was on a Sunday--a memorable period, never to be forgotten. Our feelings were then greatly excited. What mighty changes since! We landed among cannibals---men and women savage by nature, in dark ignorance, fully prepared for mischief of every kind; and the land also tapued to such an extreme as scarcely to leave room to tread without falling into error; every man doing as he thought fit in his own eyes, without restraint or imposition, at every turn. Yet we have been preserved, for the good hand of our God was upon us. Since those early days, we have seen, we may say, many glorious times, when the savage character was set aside, and the people flocking for instruction in divine things. They then remembered the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy, in joy and praise. But now how changed! 'Aue! aue! te mahi a Hatana!' (Alas! alas! the work of Satan!) But is there not a reason? During the years now past, and unknown, even by name, to the present generation, our trials were very great, but our mercies were greater, and unnumbered; and we are now surrounded by children, and children's children.
"My wife and I are now being well stricken in years; our work is finished; and we are looking for that great change which awaiteth us, when sin and sorrow shall for ever cease; when we shall behold the glory of the Lord, and be partakers of that glory. I feel that day not far distant--the time of the end draweth nigh.
"On this day, we assembled, though not by design, the various orders of our Church: a bishop (Parata), archdeacon (self), priest (Burrows), deacon (Taupaki), and Clarke (old clerk). 2 Our arrival in the Bay was brought up, when you were not forgotten. We should have been glad to have had you amongst us with your trumpet; and as the spring is coming on, and you should consider yourself strong enough to endure a voyage, we shall all be glad to welcome you for change of air, which may renovate you considerably. Our sons and daughters are now settled around, who will all give you a hearty reception. Old Clarke and old Kemp are still about, who will expect you to pass a little time with them; but you will
[Image of page 281]
find great changes, particularly among the natives. Indolence abounds, and indifference to their religious duties, in which they once delighted.
This is a sad grief to us, but Satan knows his time is short.......
Mrs. Williams unites in kind regards to Mrs. Hobbs and the various members of your family, and believe me,
"Ever yours faithfully,
But the Archdeacon has gone, while his friend Hobbs, in a green old age, remains. He has bequeathed to New Zealand an honoured name, an influential family; and to his sons, a charming inheritance at Pakaraka, where his venerable widow finds a happy home amid the tender attentions of her own loved ones.
It was the lot of Mr. Williams, as of many other good men, to be evil spoken of. His heroic bearing, his sturdy honesty, and his outspoken sentiments, brought upon him the enmity of many unprincipled Europeans. Evil reports were fabricated to his disadvantage, which was a cause of grief to his friends.
In justice to the name of a truly good man, it is right for me to say that I do not think any one did so much for New Zealand as did that intrepid missionary. He was denounced, even in high quarters, as a "traitor," while he was laying the settlers under an undying obligation by the services he was performing, at great personal risk, as well as inconvenience.
On the question of title to some lands he had bought from the natives,--not for himself, but for his children,--he had the misfortune to come into conflict with Sir George Grey, the Governor, and with his own Bishop (Selwyn). Even the Missionary Committee in London was so biassed by false statements, that they required their old and faithful servant to yield to the demands of the Governor
[Image of page 282]
and the Bishop, under pain of dismissal. The Archdeacon was a man of high principle: he held to the righteousness of his own cause; and he knew that "when a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him."
Deeply as he felt the cruel act of injustice on the part of the Committee, whom he had so long and so faithfully-served, his resolve was at once taken. He would not yield to unrighteous demands, implying dishonour on himself; and no time was lost in clearing out from the Society's property, where he had lived and laboured for more than thirty years, and he found an asylum in the bosom of his family at Pakaraka.
I rejoice to add that, on fuller information, the Committee saw their error, made the amende, and restored the Archdeacon to his former position. His biographer, Hugh Carleton, Esq., has ably vindicated his character from all the calumnies by which it was assailed.
I knew him well and admired him much. Even to old age, he was "abundant in labours." From north to south, the name of Te Wiremu (Williams) was honoured by the Maori tribes. Reviled as he was, most wickedly, by many of our own race, he was held in universal esteem by those who knew him. The natives--for whose benefit his life was devoted-- loved him as a father, and after his death, refusing any contribution from Europeans, they subscribed the sum of £200, in order to erect a memorial stone at Paihia, which monument was unveiled on the 11th of January, 1876. "The memory of the just is blessed."