1851 - Marsh, E. G. Letter to Church Missionary Society - [Text] p 1-19

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  1851 - Marsh, E. G. Letter to Church Missionary Society - [Text] p 1-19
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Aylesford, August 30, 1851.

Rev. Sir,

The statement, which I now take the liberty of enclosing, is not published. It is only furnished to the regular members of the Church Missionary Committee, and to a few private friends, in order to bring the matters, to which it relates, under further consideration, and to provide for their being better understood. It may seem presumptuous in me, standing almost alone, after repeated discussions, to persist in representing a body of Christian men, whom I highly respect and esteem, as having been mistaken in their judgment, and consequently unjust in their treatment of persons, who have the strongest claim on their sympathy, support, and protection. I trust I have all along been open to conviction on this subject; and I hope I am so still. But I cannot, until convinced, consent to be silent, while I see some of those, whom I revere or love, exposed to misrepresentation, and degraded from an office, which they have long served and adorned. I am sure, that the Committee have at all times desired to act with candour, justice, and charity. But New Zealand is distant; reports from that quarter are slow in travelling; and passing occurrences insensibly change our views in judging of objects. I apprehend that the Committee in some of these cases have never adequately weighed the import of their own words, or the effect of them on impartial minds, and that hence, while the missionaries have understood in them only what the words convey, the Committee have put upon them a meaning, more consonant to

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their present sentiments than to those, which they entertained, before new occurrences arose, to modify them. May I presume therefore to request a candid consideration of the statements, contained in the enclosed paper? I do not at present see, how they can be fairly controverted: and, if they be admitted to be true, I am sure, that Christian men, and especially men having charge of an important Mission in the Church of Christ, will not be withheld by any inferior considerations from doing justice to all the parties concerned.

I will only add, that I have not been requested by any of the persons, alluded to in this paper, to plead their cause. They, though they feel themselves aggrieved, sit quiet under the grievance. I only remember the command, which lies upon all, who have the opportunity to obey it--'Seek judgment! Relieve the oppressed!'

I beg to subscribe myself,
Rev. Sir,
Your very faithful servant,


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IN stating the case of Archdeacon Henry Williams it is necessary to revert to the origin of his becoming a proprietor of land. This (it is well known) was entirely occasioned by that rule of the Committee, which discharges the children of their missionaries from all further claim to support, after they have compleated their fifteenth year, while yet in New Zealand at the time, when these purchases were made, no other employment for maintaining themselves without being a burden to others was open to them, except that of agriculture. Accordingly the farm, on which the Archdeacon settled his sons, at some distance from his own residence, has afforded them a maintenance, enabled one of them to pay the expenses of his own education at the college, and exhibited to all the surrounding natives an instructive example of industrious occupation. On the other hand, had it not been for the farm, the six sons and five daughters of Archdeacon Henry Williams would now be destitute.

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But the causes, which led to these purchases of land, are so well explained by the Committee itself, that I cannot do better than quote the passage.

In the Minutes of the Committee, held on Feb. 22, 1847, it is stated, that

'The subject of the large amount of lands claimed by, and awarded to the missionaries and catechists of the Society, has been frequently brought under the consideration of the Committee during the past seven years. But in no one instance has it been proved, that any missionary has neglected his spiritual duties, to attend to his land-concerns.

'There are also certain facts, which have had great weight with the Committee in consideration of this subject, which are too generally overlooked.

'First, the purchases of these large tracts of land were for the most part made, before New Zealand had become a scene of land-speculation, and when the value of land was comparatively trifling.

'Secondly, they were made at a time, when the natives were most anxious to secure the residence of European missionaries among them. The land was often offered to the missionaries, pressed upon them; and in more than one case two tribes, engaged in bloody wars with each other, mutually

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'consented to relinquish their claims and their warfare, on condition that the missionaries would buy their disputed land.

'Thirdly, these large tracts of land, according to all testimony, which has reached the Committee, comprise an immense proportion of worthless land, bare rock, barren sands, deep-rooted fern, etc., and in many cases the natives obliged the missionaries to purchase a thousand acres of land in connexion with some moderate portion of cultivatable land, which alone the missionary wished to possess.

'Fourthly, the missionaries have ever disavowed all intention of land-jobbing. They have constantly affirmed, that they have made these purchases for the purpose of making provision for their large and healthy families, with which God has blessed them in the climate of New Zealand, at the time, when no other means of support were open to them, but those of agriculture.

'Fifthly, the missionaries were countenanced in these large land-purchases by the precedent, sanctioned by government in Australia, where grants of land were gratuitously made to the children of chaplains to the extent of 2500 acres for a son, and 1250 acres for a daughter.'

To these remarks of the Committee may be added the following resolution, which was passed by them in April, 1831, 'That the situation of

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'the Society's missionaries in New Zealand be represented to his Majesty's government, and that they be requested to place them on the same footing with regard to grants of land in New South Wales, as the children of the chaplains in that colony.'

I will next produce the Minutes of the Executive Council in New Zealand, at which the quantity of land, which is now possessed by the family of the Archdeacon, was awarded to him.

'On the 12th of June, 1844, at a meeting of the executive Council in New Zealand, all the members being present, the Governor submitted to the Council the land-claims of the Reverend Henry Williams. His Excellency stated, that from the reports of the Commissioners, Messrs. Godfrey and Richmond, the claimant had actually paid enough to entitle him to claim 22,131 acres, but that the whole of his six claims amounted only to 11,000 acres. In accordance with the provisions of the land-claims Ordinance the Commissioners had recommended awards, amounting together to 7,010 acres. His Excellency remarked, among other things, that there could not be any doubt, that Mr. Williams had done more for the advancement and improvement of the aboriginal race, and in fact for the general interests of the colony at large, than any other individual member of the missionary body. He,

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Mr. Williams, was therefore highly entitled to 'favorable consideration; and his Excellency 'would request the opinion of the Council, whether Mr. Williams's claims should be referred to the Commissioner, authorizing him to recommend an extension of the award. Upon consideration the Council were unanimously of opinion, that, taking into consideration all the circumstances in connexion with Mr. Williams's claims, the Commissioner should be authorized to recommend an extension of the grant in his favour.'

Nevertheless, Governor Grey having subsequently assured her Majesty's government, that the purchasers of these tracts of land could not be put in possession of them without a large expenditure of British blood and money, a statement, which the Committee of course could not then call in question, though it has since been proved to be totally destitute of foundation, the Committee, with a view to remove all ground for such apprehensions, and in order to cut off all suspicion and reproach, passed on Feb. 22, 1847, after the explanatory paragraph above quoted, the following resolution:

'That no missionary or catechist of the Society can be allowed to continue his connexion with the Society, who shall retain for his own use and benefit a greater amount of land than shall be determined upon, as suitable, by the Governor

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'of New Zealand and the Lord Bishop of New Zealand jointly.'

They were careful however to add--

'The Committee cannot go beyond this resolution, as they have no power or desire to interfere with the private property of their missionaries. They must leave to their own decision the mode of disposing of land, which those, who continue in connexion with the Society, may under the operation of the foregoing resolution be compelled to part with.'

And lastly in the letter, which transmitted this resolution to New Zealand, the Secretaries informed the missionaries, that, after the Governor and the Bishop should have fixed a maximum, the 'missionaries might either dispose of the remainder by sale, or make it over to their children, or put it in trust for the benefit of the aborigines.'

It must be clear to every one, who reads the foregoing resolution, and the letter, which accompanied it, that thereby the Governor and Bishop were authorized on the part of the Society to determine what amount of land might be retained by a missionary or catechist for his own use and benefit, that consequently, whatever that amount of land might be, whether it were great, or whether it were small, it might be retained by a missionary or catechist for his own use and benefit, and that the surplus he was at liberty to dispose of to his

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children, or in any other way at his discretion. Of course it follows a fortiori, that, if he was permitted to retain the amount determined for his own use and benefit, and to dispose of the surplus to his children, or to other parties, he could not do wrong in making over the whole quantity either to his children, or others.

The resolution, so communicated to the missionaries, was a most deliberate act. It was adopted at a special meeting of the Committee, attended by the President and several of the Vice-Presidents of the Society, and transmitted to Earl Grey, with a request that it might be forwarded to the Governor of New Zealand, and also appended to the papers, on which they were founded, should those papers be laid before her Majesty, or before Parliament. It must be considered therefore, as the rule, by which their own proceedings, and those of the missionaries, were thereafter to be governed.

I add, that the Society, having thus deliberately granted certain rights to its missionaries, cannot at pleasure revoke them.

This argument I have repeatedly pressed upon the attention of the Committee; and it has never yet received an answer, unless it be considered an answer to say, that the whole subject has been well considered, and that yet the Committee adheres to its decision.

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Since the last time that I brought it forward, namely, on the 14th of July, I have observed in a debate, which arose in the House of Lords on matters connected with the Cape of Good Hope, a similar position, in regard to the prerogative of the Crown. It was there stated, first by the Earl of Derby, and afterwards by Lord Cranworth, Lord Lyndhurst, and the Lord Chancellor Truro, that, when the Crown grants a franchise to the inhabitants of a district or colony, it is irrevocable. Having once made a grant of this kind, it cannot abrogate, rescind, or alter it. The principle, on which this legal maxim is founded, affords a shelter to my argument, of which I gladly avail myself.

It is no answer to this argument to allege, that the Committee had expressed themselves incautiously, that they never meant to introduce a distinction between land which a missionary should retain for his own use and benefit, and land which he might dispose of to his children, or that they never contemplated the idea of 2560 acres being retained by him for his own use and benefit, and yet a further surplus remaining, to be transferred to his children. The language of their resolution speaks for itself, and must be interpreted, as it would naturally be understood, and as it was actually understood by the missionaries, when they received it.

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Neither is it any answer to say, that the Society have always set their faces against large acquisitions of lands by their missionaries. Whatever they may have done in former instances, they have in this case pledged themselves to a certain concession, the exact extent of which was to be determined by the Governor and Bishop.

Nor, lastly, is it any reply to state, that the Bishop's proposal, to which he required the assent of the missionaries, was an independent proposal, not founded on the reference of the Society, but on his own judgment. It is true, that his proposal was not in accordance with the resolution of the Committee, and was therefore not binding on the missionaries. But it distinctly declared the maximum of 2560 acres, and thus filled up the blank in the Society's resolution. This however is of no moment in the present question, Archdeacon Henry Williams not having retained 2560 acres in his own possession, but transferred the whole, partly to his children, and partly to trustees for the erection and endowment of a church, and the benefit of the aborigines.

Another mode, by which the force of this reasoning has been evaded, and its application to the case of Archdeacon Henry Williams denied, is by bringing forward his written consent to the proposal of the Bishop. But it has been shewn to the Committee by unquestionable proof, that this con-

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sent was conditional, and that the condition has not been fulfilled.

I must also dismiss, as irrelevant to the present inquiry, all complaints concerning the tone and temper of the Archdeacon's remonstrances, or the course which he has pursued towards the Bishop or the Governor. It is possible, that he may have erred in many respects. It is possible, that a different course might have been more advisable in itself, or more conducive to his own peace and the benefit of the mission. I neither affirm, nor deny any such allegations. I only contend, that, even if they were all admitted, which I am far from conceding, they might prove the Archdeacon to have been wrong in certain particulars of conduct, but they would not in the slightest degree affect the validity of my simple argument, that the Society, having disclaimed all power or desire to interfere with the private property of the missionaries, and having expressly authorized them to dispose of any surplus of land, which they might be compelled to part with, to their children, or to other parties, cannot with any consistency make the act of one of their number in divesting himself of all property a ground of dismissal. The question at present under discussion relates to an act of the Society itself; and even if it should appear that Archdeacon Henry Williams has committed many errors, it does not thence follow, that the

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Society is free from error in visiting one of its most faithful missionaries with that extreme penalty, which is ordinarily reserved for unfaithfulness, immorality, or false doctrine.

I now come to notice the second resolution of the Committee, passed on June 27, 1848, in which they declare, that they indulge a strong hope, that Archdeacon Henry Williams will at once renew his consent to the proposal of the Bishop, and thus avert the painful alternative, in which they would otherwise be placed, of regarding his continued refusal as a dissolution on his part of his connexion with the Society.

Into the reasons, which induced the Society to pass this resolution, I do not now enter. I simply deny the right of the Society to enforce it, as being inconsistent with the authority, which they had already conceded to the Archdeacon, as one of their missionaries, and which they could not with propriety retract. He was therefore justified by the facts of the case in considering, that it must have originated either in incorrect information, or in forgetfulness of the power vested in him by their former resolution. He might also justly argue, that to accept the Bishop's proposal was to do an act which the Committee could hardly mean to sanction: for that proposal was not only to accept a maximum of 2560 acres, but to restore the surplus land to the original native owners, a proposal

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which he could not but feel to be most preposterous, because the natives knew that they had parted with all title to the land, which they had sold, and because to restore a part of it to one owner, while he retained that which had been purchased from another, would be the likeliest of all conceivable contrivances to sow discord among the natives. The Archdeacon therefore had good reason for believing, that the Committee could hardly be aware of the effect of their new resolution; and in the language of Archdeacon William Williams's protest, which was entered on the occasion in the Minutes of the Central Committee there, he might fairly expect that the Society, when rightly informed, would reverse their decision. Upon the strength of these convictions Archdeacon Henry Williams, in concurrence with the judgment, and in compliance with the advice of his brother, executed the deed, which he had designed from the first, and which he had only been prevented from executing before by the proceedings of the Governor to invalidate his title, by which deed he conveyed away all his land, nine-tenths to his children, and one tenth to ecclesiastical and other public purposes, for the religious instruction and benefit of the natives.

How far it might have become the Archdeacon to wave his own right in deference to the judgment or advice of others is another question, which I do

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not feel myself called upon to discuss. That under the circumstances of the case he was warranted in acting, as he has done, I think has been sufficiently shewn: and consequently I cannot hold the Committee excused, in point of justice or equity, when on Nov. 20, 1849, they passed a third resolution, by which, while they bore a strong testimony to his long and most valuable services to the cause of the Gospel in the past twenty-six years, they declared the connexion to be dissolved between Archdeacon Henry Williams and the Church Missionary Society, on account of his refusal to accede to the proposal, submitted to him by the Governor of New Zealand and the Bishop, that he should accept a grant of 2560 acres in lieu of his extended grants of large tracts of unoccupied lands, and of the many hindrances and evils which his unhappy contention for his extensive land-claims has brought upon the cause of missions.

Independently of the substantial injustice of this measure, there are in the allegations, on which it is grounded, several mis-statements. First, Archdeacon Henry Williams had no unoccupied lands. The whole was occupied, and had long been occupied by his family. Secondly, it is well known that his refusal was not simply to accept a smaller grant in lieu of a larger, but to accept any such offer, unless accompanied with a retractation of injurious reflections, which had been cast upon his

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character as a missionary, and upon his integrity as a man. Thirdly, therefore it is not correct to speak of his unhappy contention for his extensive land-claims. He was contending all along not for land but for character. Indeed, on August 16, 1847, he addressed a letter to Governor Grey, stating, in the name of the missionaries, that they were ready to surrender all their land, if it could be shewn, as the Governor had alleged, that their possession of it would cause a large expenditure of British blood and money, or even that it could by any possibility occasion the shedding of a drop of blood. And then his contention, however it may be characterized, was throughout purely passive. It involved him in no suit. He brought no action. He defended none. He only abstained from surrendering land, of which he was lawfully in possession by grant from the Crown, on a demand, which, as shewn by the decision of the Supreme Court, was not legal, and on pretences, which cannot be sustained: and yet even this sacrifice he always professed himself ready to make, if the injurious reflections were withdrawn.

I conceive therefore, that Archdeacon Henry Williams has been doubly wronged in this third resolution of the Committee; first by ungrounded allegations, contained in it, reflecting upon his character; and, secondly, by the sentence itself, which according to the reasoning now advanced,

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the Society had precluded themselves from inflicting. I humbly submit, therefore, that the Society is bound in justice and honour to afford redress for these grievances by restoring the Archdeacon to the position from which he has been displaced.

That I may as far as possible avoid any error myself, while I am imputing error to others, I have requested Archdeacon William Williams to examine carefully all the statements in this paper, who confirms their correctness in every particular.

The case of Archdeacon Henry Williams however is not the only one, in which I conceive the Society to have been betrayed into an unintentional act of injustice, through a want of appreciating correctly the rightful claims of its missionaries, or a misapprehension of some of the facts connected with them.

On Feb. 20, 1849, the Society dissolved their connexion with Mr. Clarke, and based that measure on the ground of his unfortunate collision with the Governor and the Bishop on the subject of his land-claims in excess of 2560 acres, adding moreover, that since his appointment, as general agent of the Society, he had resided upon his own lands, and only furnished the Society with a report of the stations at the Bay of Islands, and in no other respect served the interests of the Society.

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On Oct. 22, 1850, I brought this case before the Committee, and related simply the plain facts of what is here called Mr. Clarke's unfortunate collision with the Governor and the Bishop. Mr. Clarke was in possession of land, awarded to him by Governor Fitzroy, and purchased by funds granted to him for that purpose by the Society, to part of which his title was disputed by Governor Grey. The Governor accordingly brought an action against Mr. Clarke for the purpose of ejecting him. When the cause came on for trial, the Attorney-General was heard on behalf of the Governor; after which Mr. Clarke's counsel rose, and stated, that he was instructed to appear out of respect to the Court, but expressly forbidden to argue the case in opposition to the Crown. So far was Mr. Clarke from maintaining any collision with the Governor and the Bishop: and yet after hearing the cause on one side only, without any resistance on the part of the defendant, the Court confirmed his title. Several of the members, present in the Committee, when I made this statement, expressed surprise, and admitted, that this was no instance of collision. Indeed the case was still stronger than I had stated it: for Mr. Clarke had actually acceded to the Bishop's proposal with a proviso, that he should be at liberty to make over the surplus for the benefit of the natives; and the

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Bishop was satisfied with the offer, but the Governor refused his consent.

The case therefore now rested exclusively on his residing upon his own land, and not serving the interests of the Society. Of this part of the charge I knew nothing, and was therefore silent. A letter was indeed produced, which, being private, I cannot quote. But it represented Mr. Clarke to have neglected some of his public duties; and the Secretaries confirmed the representation.

But on making more particular inquiry afterwards, I find this to be the state of the facts.

Mr. Clarke, having gone out, as a catechist, under the Society in 1821, was in April, 1840, requested by Governor Hobson to undertake the office of protector of the aborigines. This request he declined, until he received the sanction, and indeed the advice of the parent Committee to engage in it. In the discharge of this office he continued, till the alterations, made in it by Governor Grey, induced him to resign. He then retired to his own farm, and was so occupied, when in September, 1844, the Committee, acting under a strong recommendation from the late Governor Fitzroy, appointed him their land-agent, and the secretary of the central Committee. He was not instructed at that time to change his residence, which indeed was thought convenient by the Society, as being contiguous to their own land,

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which he was to inspect; nor was after this any complaint of neglect of duty made to him officially, until the Committee saw fit to pass the resolution, dissolving his connexion with the Society. The complaints, then made, were first his residence upon his own land, secondly his omission to furnish the Society with reports, such as they expected from him, and thirdly, that he had in no other respect served the interests of the Society. The two former of these statements might, if the complaint were well founded, furnish cause for remonstrance, but could hardly even then he thought a sufficient ground for dismissal. The last is indeed a grave charge. I can hardly conceive it to be merited. Certainly at least, while he held the office of protector, the letter which he addressed to the Governor on March 30, 1846, and which is published among the parliamentary papers with the Governor's notes, pp. 13-20, bears marks of anything rather than a disposition to slight the duties connected with his office: and in respect to his conduct since his re-appointment under the Society, the Society itself has recently published his vindication; for a long report, made by Mr. Clarke to the Secretaries, and dated February 22, 1849, only two days after the date of his dismissal, has been introduced into the Church Missionary Intelligencer for June, pp. 126-129, in which he gives an interesting account

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of a second visit, paid by him to the whole of that large portion of the island, which extends from the bay of Plenty to Poverty Bay, a coastline of some hundred miles, and supplies from place to place ample proofs of the progress which the Gospel had made amongst the people, in the interval between his two visits, and of their advancement in civilization.

I have however asked Archdeacon William Williams, if he can recollect any instance of Mr. Clarke's inattention to the interests of the Society; and he assures me, that to the best of his judgment he has always acted with zeal and activity in their service. It appears to me, therefore, that both the heads of accusation against Mr. Clarke, contained in the resolution, dissolving his connexion with the Society, fail, and that he is consequently entitled to restitution.

I will lastly advert to the case of Mr. King, the oldest member of any of the Society's Missions, having been more than forty years on their list, who on that account alone (it is presumed) has been superannuated, and placed on a reduced salary. In this country it is not usual to superannuate a public officer, till either he expresses a wish to retire, or till others have made a formal report of his unfitness for further service. Neither of these steps appears to have been taken in the

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case of Mr. King. He is still in the station he has all along occupied, discharges its duties with as much efficiency as he has ever displayed; and his superannuation operates only as a cause of distress to himself and his family in his old age, which rather entitles him to the increased respect, which he receives from others, than to that diminished income, which he now undergoes at the hand of the Church Missionary Society.

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