1852 - Swainson, William. Auckland and its Neighbourhood - CHAPTER V, p 46-51

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  1852 - Swainson, William. Auckland and its Neighbourhood - CHAPTER V, p 46-51
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"NIGHT AND MORNING."--The "Past and Present" of New Zealand.

ANY account of "Auckland and its Neighbourhood," however slight, would be imperfect indeed which should make no mention of its early history; or of the condition, "Past and Present," of its Native people.

The position and natural advantages of New Zealand were such as, under any circumstances, to secure for its colonization a large amount of public attention. But it was not because it was a good land --a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees--of oil, olives, and honey--a rich and promising field of emigration--that the undertaking was viewed by thoughtful men with deep and serious interest; but because it was about to be made the field of an experiment affecting the interests of humanity. A pledge was given by the Ministers of the Crown that, as to the Islands of New Zealand, its Native inhabitants--to use the measured language of a Ministerial despatch--should, if possible, "be saved from that process of war and spoliation under which uncivilized tribes have almost invariably disappeared as often as they have been brought into the immediate vicinity of emigrants from the nations of Christendom."

Awaking to a sense of its past proceedings as the invader of defenceless heathen lands, the British nation was about to try the experiment whether a fragment of the great human family--long isolated from the world, destitute of all spiritual light, and sunk in heathen darkness--could be raised from their state of social degradation and permanently maintained and preserved as a civilised people? Or, whether those desolate portions of our fellow creatures must be for ever left in a state of hopeless barbarism? Whether, in fact, it were possible to bring two distinct portions of the human race, in the opposite conditions of civilisation and barbarism, into immediate contact, without the destruction of the uncivilised race? And whether, in rendering the colonisation of a barbarous country possible, by his religious teaching, the Christian Missionary is not also at the same time

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the pioneer of the destruction of its heathen people? Such were the questions involved in the colonisation of New Zealand.

While the Novelist was delighting his readers with imaginary pictures of moving incident, striking change, and high-flown sentiment, a few of our countrymen were taking part in a reality, and witnessing a "Past and Present," in the remote Islands of New Zealand, too startling even for the pages of Romance. Although but twelve years have elapsed since the undertaking was commenced, yet the modern traveller, now arriving in the country since light has dawned upon the land, seeing the neighbourhood of its Capital cultivated like an English landscape--the colonist living in the midst of peace and plenty--the New Zealanders supplying the markets with the produce of their industry--the two races dwelling together in uninterrupted harmony--English laws regularly administered--order prevailing--and Christian teaching eagerly received--can, with difficulty, now imagine that so bright a "Morning" was preceded, and so recently, by so long and dark a "Night"--and can hardly realize the difficulties, the anxieties, and the grave responsibilities of its early founders.

To appreciate fully the contrast between the "Night and Morning" of New Zealand, it is not sufficient to call to mind some general vague impression that once upon a time these Islands, on account of the savage character of their people, were so dreaded by the mariner, that nothing but the last necessity would induce him to land upon their shores. A yet nearer and a clearer view of their condition must be presented to the mind. Go back but sixteen years--not to view a picture drawn from imagination, but to view a stern reality. The conflict ended--traverse a Native field of battle. Horror-struck, you may be: thankful, indeed, you ought to be, that you have lived yourself in a blaze of Christian light; but repress all feeling of self-exultation--remember the revolting barbarities once committed in the streets of the boasted capital of refinement and civilisation--and learn, with all humility, to what depths we ourselves might fall if, like the inhabitants of New Zealand, we should be left for ages without all knowledge of a God. Take, then, for instance, the scene at R * * * Time, 1830. The bodies of fallen men, weltering in their blood, are here and there strewn about the ground. Here "a number of bodies are laid out, previously to their being cut up for the

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oven." You "turn away in disgust, and sick at heart;" but which ever way you look, "some sight of horror salutes you;" By-and-by, a body, apparently that moment killed, is dragged into the camp. "The head is cut off almost before you can look round--the breast is opened, and the heart, streaming with warmth, pulled out and carried off." At every turn you are exposed to the most revolting scenes. "Halves of bodies, quarters, legs, and heads, are carried away, and some of them are purposely thrust into your face." You now visit the spot where the opposite party is encamped, and where "for two days after the battle they remained to gorge on sixty human bodies." "Bones of all kinds, the remains of their cannibal feast, are spread about in all directions." "Two long lines of native ovens mark the spot where the bodies were cooked: and a smaller oven, with a wreath around its edge and two pointed sticks by the side, on the one of which was a potatoe, and on the other a lock of hair, points out the place where they set apart a portion of their horrid meal for the Evil Spirit." Retired somewhat apart is a little child, "nursing in his lap, as if a plaything, one of the slain chief's hands." Such were the frightful scenes to be witnessed in these Islands but sixteen years ago. Standing in the midst of them, the appalled spectator might hardly have been persuaded, though one rose from the dead to assure him of the fact, that he himself should live to witness, within less than sixteen years, Native children of New Zealand, neatly clad in English dresses, assembled for Christian worship on the Sabbath-day, chanting the "Magnificat" and the "Nunc Dimittis"--and singing, in English, the Evening Hymn, in a manner to put to shame many an English congregation. With the battle-field of R * * * fresh painted on its pages, what author of Romance would venture to represent the actors in these scenes, after so brief an interval, assembled together at a Meeting to promote the spread of Christianity among the heathen people of the neighbouring Islands--gratefully acknowledging the benefits they had received from their own Christian teachers--quoting from Scripture the command to "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature"--animating each other to speed the Christian work, and contributing, according to their means, in aid of the newly-founded "Melanesian Mission." If made the subject of romance, a contrast so striking would be deemed to outrage probability. But fact is stronger than fiction: and there are those now living who can bear

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witness to its truth. JOWETT KUMUMOMO, addressing the Native Missionary Meeting at Taripiri, may he taken as a striking illustration of the "Past and Present" of New Zealand, and as a living personification of its "Night and Morning:" --

"My Friends, --Although I am not an old man, I have tasted human flesh; some years ago it was sweet; the Gospel came, and I would not receive it. I then went to Taranaki, and again tasted human flesh-- but it was no longer sweet. Why was it not as sweet as before?--it was now bitter to my taste. The reason is, the Gospel told me it was wrong: and if any one in this assembly should again taste of human flesh it would no longer be sweet to him. Although he may not believe in Christ, yet he would find that his old habits and customs were no longer sweet, because he has heard the truth and the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit would speak to his heart. The light had come, and be would be unhappy. The Bishop and myself have been to the islands near to us: many of the islanders are cannibals; five Europeans had been killed a few months ago, and perhaps eaten. What are we to do? We must send the Gospel of Christ. It has already begun to work; thirteen children of the chiefs of those Islands have been given to the Bishop to educate. You must do the same; send your children to the schools at Kaetoteche, Maraitai, and Auckland. They send their children a great distance, while you are but a short distance from the schools, and yet some of you do not send your children. At one of the Islands we had a near escape. We landed to get fresh water; when inland, the people came around us, stopped our path, but let us pass when we came in the midst of them; they then went aside, and some of them threw stones at us. They had their hands on their bows ready to send their arrows: we were obliged to leave our water-casks. When we reached the sea, the Bishop and all of us had to swim in our clothes to the boat, which was some distance from the shore: we reached the boat and ship in safety. And why? Because God protected us; He will protect all His servants who make known His Gospel. Why did He not allow an arrow to be shot at us! Why did we not sink whilst we were swimming to the boat? I had coat and shoes on--they were heavy--but God strengthened us all. The Bishop says he will not give up the Islands--he will persevere to carry the Gospel--and if he says I shall go with him and remain there, I

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am willing; but what am I doing! I am boasting, which is not good. That is all my speech."

Such is a faithful version (translated) of the speech of a native of New Zealand in the year 1852.

To have foretold, some sixteen years ago, that New Zealand--the terror of navigators, the scene of war, rapine, and cannibalism, the very bye-word of barbarism--might in this present year of 1852 be traversed throughout its length and breadth in fearless security by a solitary, unarmed traveller, would in itself have been a bold assertion. But it would have taxed the faith of the most sanguine to believe that nothing in that same year should surprise the traveller more than to find, wherever two or three are gathered together, the close or dawn of a single day unmarked by the sound of prayer or praise--yet such is the record of the modern traveller.

But contemporary events are seldom rightly discerned, or fully appreciated, even by their principal actors; for, to be seen distinctly, objects may be placed too near as well as at too great a distance from the eye. To those who are occupied with the near realities and the pressing exigencies of their daily life, there may appear to be nothing remarkable in the work of civilisation which is going on around them. Nay, the very rapidity of its progress-- the ease and quiet with which it is accomplished--tends, in the view of the immediate spectator, to rob it of its interest: but, in some far distant age, when the "Present" of New Zealand shall have become time-honored, and shall be dimmed in the antiquity of the. "Past," it will be regarded as an historical fact of curious interest, that a little band of Englishmen, strong only in their weakness, were sent forth by the Parent State to found a Colony in these Islands, and to govern and control, not only their own countrymen, but a barbarous, well-armed, warlike native people--a hundred thousand strong--jealous of their liberties, and impatient of control. How fared these early Founders--what were their hopes and fears--what their difficulties--and how were they surmounted! How gain even a footing in the land, and how maintain their ground? How was the armed barbarian made amenable to their laws! By what means were a powerful, independent people induced to yield even a semblance of obedience to an almost powerless foreign sway! These, and questions such as these, will then be matter

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of curious history. And the "Past and Present" of New Zealand-- though, to its living actors, it may be of little interest--will, if faithfully recorded, be read by a remote posterity as a "Strange eventful History."

In other regions of the world, England has, by conquest, extended largely the bounds of her dominions--the result of many a brilliant victory. But what is won by the sword--and that which is held by the sword--by the sword may also perish. Here the issue still is pending, and the victory yet unwon; but if it shall be given to the Founders of this colony to be also the instruments of preserving a barbarous native race, and of raising them in the scale of civilisation to a level with ourselves--then, crowned with these unwonted blessings, the first-fruits of a coming age--the colonisation of these islands will be one of the noblest conquests in the annals of our country's history: and New Zealand, already the cradle of civilisation and the Day-Spring of light to the heathen people of the Southern Seas, will be the brightest ornament in the borders of her empire.

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