1817 - Nicholas, J. L. Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand [Vol.II] - CHAPTER II

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  1817 - Nicholas, J. L. Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand [Vol.II] - CHAPTER II
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Covetous disposition of the chief Bennee--The author's project to cure him of it--Preposterous vanity of this chief --Excursion to a village--The party prepare to leave Parro--Longevity, and inferences drawn from it--Departure from Korra-korra's district--Tedious and disagreeable passage--Return to the vessel--The author visits the settlement--Occurrences there, and incidental remarks--Duaterra's expedition to the North Cape--Picturesque appearance of his canoe--Further transactions at the settlement--Traffic between the author and the natives--Their active industry--The ship proceeds again to the Cowa-cowa--Visited by Tarra and Pomaree --Detection and punishment of a thief--Mr. Marsden and the author accompany Pomaree to the timber district.

THE New Zealanders are, of all the people I ever met with, the most importunate in. their demands upon strangers, and some of them are of so covetous a disposition, that give them what you will, they are not to be satisfied. Old Bennee was a striking instance of this avaricious spirit, and I would not hesitate to pronounce him the sturdiest beggar in the whole island. Mr. Marsden gave him a large fish-hook and some other trifles,

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which he might consider gifts of immense value, but these did not prevent him from annoying us with his teasing solicitations whenever we approached him, and his constant cry was, "Give it the wow," 1 "Give it the matow," 2 "Give it the tokee," which he kept ringing in our ears, even after he had obtained them. One day while he was on board, I was willing, if possible, to cure him of this propensity, which had now rendered him perfectly irksome to us; and considering that ridicule might perhaps be the most effectual method I could adopt, I resolved to practise it upon him, and try how far it might be conducive to my purpose. Walking, therefore, upon the quarter-deck, I would go up to him and say, "Bennee, homi wow," (i. e. Bennee, give me a nail;) when he would stretch out his hand in anxious expectation of receiving one, but instead of giving it to him, I would look gravely at him, and make another request, "homi matow," (give me a fish-hook;) when he would again hold out his hand with increased avidity; and disappointing him a second time, I would ask him again, "homi tokee," at which, unable to contain himself any longer, he would get

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into the wildest transports of delight, expecting every moment this treasure at my hands. At last, when I had thus raised his expectation to the highest pitch, and worked up his impatience to almost convulsive restlessness, I would say to him very coolly, "Bennee, homi kipoakee," (give me the ship,) when his features suddenly changing from the expression of extreme joy to that of the most dejected hopelessness, he would shake his head and cry, "Mr. Nicholas nuee nuee henerecka," (Mr. Nicholas jokes too much.) This method had the desired effect, and the old chief, in his subsequent interviews with us, took very good care to restrain his impatience; while desisting from his troublesome urgency, he left it entirely to ourselves to give him whatever we thought proper. I should not, however, have played so much upon his feelings, had I not known him to be insatiable in his cupidity; and it was necessary for our own quiet, to devise some such means in order to free ourselves from his constant annoyance. Most of the members of his family were equally importunate with himself; and the begging contagion seemed to have spread among them with the same irritating prurience.

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The whole of this day Mr. Marsden and myself were busied in salting and curing fish, and the natives rendered us every possible assistance on the occasion. The women and girls were employed in opening them and taking out the entrails, while the men occasionally assisted in these operations; or going in their canoes, supplied the industry of the others by bringing in plenty of bream and snappers, which they caught with the hook and line. It was pleasing to observe with what promptitude and cheerful willingness they all exerted themselves. They worked incessantly, and though they would sometimes jokingly call out to us for a wow, and affect to suspend their labours till it was given to them, they never relaxed a single instant; and we certainly were careful to requite them for their perseverance. Old Bennee was extremely amusing, and we were much diverted by his ludicrous behaviour. So very aristocratical was he in his notions, and such was the mean light in which he held all those who employed themselves at any kind of manual labour, that looking at us with a scornful glance, and suddenly averting his eye, as if afraid of being degraded by the very sight of our

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work, he exclaimed, contemptuously, "Mr, Marsden and Mr. Nicholas cookee cookee," and with a smile of self-importance cried out, "Mr. Bennee, nuee nuee rungateeda." But Bennee's ideas of exalted rank were as preposterous as they were laughable; and while he despised us for salting fish, he could bring himself to the humiliating degradation of begging a nail from us, if I had not ridiculed him out of his importunity. In the evening I walked to a small village at a short distance from the Governor's, and purchased some thread and fish-hooks from the inhabitants. One of them had the ingenuity to make a very tolerable fish-hook out of a large nail; he had bent it to the proper shape, and had made a barb to it with a degree of skill that reflected no ordinary credit on his talent for imitation. After walking all over this village, I could perceive nothing in it worthy of notice, the huts being of a similar construction with those I had observed in the other parts, but meaner and more uncomfortable in their appearance.

Having, on the morning of the 25th, filled both our casks with fish, we prepared for our return to the vessel; leaving a

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that we had brought with us, to salt whatever other quantity the natives might bring in. From the sultry state of the weather, it was impossible for us to cure them effectually, and a great part of what had been caught and salted on the preceding night, we found either fly-blown or crawling with maggots in the morning. The meat-fly in this country is similar to the blue-bottle fly in England, and equally destructive to provisions; but is by no means so bad as that in New South Wales, which is there a perfect nuisance, depositing its maggots alive upon the meat as soon as it is killed, and even while at table; 3 so that it is absolutely necessary for you to examine each morsel carefully before you put it

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into your mouth, or you may swallow down a plentiful number of these obnoxious crawlers.

Before we left this place, Korra-korra was visited by a very old man, and Tui, upon seeing him, remarked to us, rather emphatically, that he had been a "nuee nuee time out of the belly." This poor man was drooping under the last stage of decrepitude; his emaciated frame presented nothing to the eye but a dry and wrinkled skin adhering to the bones, in frightful decay; and his intellectual faculties were quite as exhausted as his physical powers. From the many instances of similar longevity that we met with in this country since our arrival, I should be inclined to draw two conclusions; the one, that the climate here and manner of living must be particularly favourable towards the prolonging of human existence; and the other, that their wars are not at all so destructive as might be imagined. I observed here a most deplorable looking object, that I believe was a woman, though from the dress and disfigurement the sex appeared doubtful; her face, hands, and indeed her whole body, seemed one mass of running sores and fetid ulcers, the effect, most

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probably, of the venereal poison, which unfortunately has been communicated to these poor natives by that unfeeling description of characters whose conduct has been so often the subject of my reproach, the crews of European vessels.

Our friends having eaten their usual quantity of kiki as a necessary preparation before their departure, we now got into the canoe; and Mr. Marsden gave Korra-korra the tokees, and other articles of traffic that we had brought with us, to distribute among his people as he thought proper. The chief, however, did not make this distribution all at once; but intending to apportion rewards at stated times to those he deemed most deserving, he deposited the several articles in his chest, and hung up the key on the outside of his house, which shewed us that he did not distrust the honesty of his people. 4* Indeed

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I must do them the justice to say, that while we remained at this place, though we left every thing exposed, and they might without

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fear of detection have taken what they pleased, yet we did not lose a single article. This surprised me the more when I reflected on the cupidity of old Bennee and others among them, who I imagined would have disregarded all prohibitions and despised every injunction, to possess themselves of those trifles for which they had so often worried our patience. We were a long time in reaching the ship, and all the while exposed to a sun that was more intense than usual, and with not a single breath of air. But, besides this oppressive state of the weather, we experienced also the disagreeable effects of our wretched accommodation on the preceding night; and were anxious to obtain as soon as possible some necessary refreshment, but particularly the comfort of clean linen, having good reason to suppose that we were not altogether free from New Zealand cootoos. It was not, therefore, without indignant sensations that we beheld Korra-korra, in place of urging his men to be expeditious, amusing them with a long story of his adventures at Port Jackson; while they occasionally rested on their paddles to listen to it. I repeatedly begged of him to use more exertion, else we should lose too much time in getting to the vessel; but

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he heard me with the greatest possible indifference, and the more importunate I was in pressing my request, the more heedless was he in attending to it, answering me only with a vacant laugh, and then going on with his story as before. Mr. Marsden, whose patience far exceeded mine, bore this irksome delay with the resignation of a true philosopher; and finding no other remedy myself, I thought it better at length to follow his example as well as I could, though I certainly was ill prepared to assume the feelings of a Stoic upon the occasion. It appeared to us, so far as we could conjecture from his pronouncing repeatedly the names of several places and persons at the colony, that our untoward friend had entered into an ample detail of all the occurrences he had met with; and could we have understood his language, I doubt not but we should have been quite as much amused as his gaping auditors. The name of Mr. Cartwright, a clergyman, at whose house he had been residing for some time, was frequently in his mouth, as were also the words Parramatta, Sydney, &c.; and the looks of amazement which his story excited among his people, were a sure indication of the wonders he recounted.

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At length we got to the ship, where, having well washed myself, and changed my dress, which I was so impatient for, I found that I had brought away with me from the Governor's mansion no small number of its crawling inmates. Being now refreshed, and having the satisfaction to find my person perfectly clear from such disgusting companions, I went on shore to dine with Mr. Kendall. Arriving at the house, I found the door completely beset by a crowd of the natives, whose curiosity to observe all the actions of the packaha would induce them to remain there from, morning till night, without ever once stirring from it; unless urged by hunger, an impulse they were always unable to resist. The chiefs would generally force their way in, and as surely leave behind them a plentiful stock of cootoos, to the great annoyance of poor Mrs. Kendall, who complained to me sadly of their filthy habits. But however obnoxious these must be at present, both she and her husband have too much good sense and strength of principle, not to submit to them with as much patience as can be expected under the circumstances in which they are placed, and for the advancement of that important purpose for which they have

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been selected. Their example and instructions, I should hope, will in some time teach these people to accommodate themselves to cleanly habits; and the loathsome nastiness to which the missionaries are now exposed, may, by their own exertions, be eventually removed.

Mr. Kendall having brought from England an excellent barrel organ, tried the effect of music upon his savage auditors; and it was highly diverting to see them thrusting in their grisly visages, and gaping with astonishment while they listened attentively to the unusual sounds. Two or three of them seemed particularly delighted, unbending their dark and tattooed features into the liveliest ecstasy; and Mr. Kendall was here another Orpheus, for though, unlike that celebrated musician, his notes had not the magic power to make the woods follow him with charmed obedience, still their animated natives were attracted by his performance in immense numbers.

Duaterra came alongside in the course of the day in his war-canoe, accompanied by two others. He was going to visit his district in Doubtless Bay, in consequence of the information, he had lately received of its

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having been invaded. The canoes were full of warriors, all of them armed with the usual weapons; and they appeared well able and prepared to revenge the injuries of their chief. Any attempt on our part to dissuade Duaterra from this expedition would have been unavailing, his resentment being worked up to the highest pitch from the unprovoked attack made upon his people; and we therefore thought it best to urge no arguments against it, seeing he was resolved to have recourse to arms, and determined on retaliation. His own canoe was a very attractive spectacle, being elegantly decorated with ingenious devices, and containing a group of the most beautiful young women in the island; who seated themselves at the paddle with a peculiar grace and easiness of attitude, while the pliancy of the action displayed their fine forms to the greatest advantage. In this canoe were likewise his wife and her handsome sister; and the whole party were gay and lively as possible. Duaterra told us, that if the account of a descent having been made upon his district should prove correct, he would, after retaliating the injury, bring away his people from that place, and settle them at Rangehoo; but that if he had been misin-

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formed, he would suffer them to remain there, and allot to each of them a portion of land and some wheat to sow it with. This first measure would have been the most judicious he could adopt; for by thus bringing to his principal territory an accession of population to the number of at least two hundred souls, he would concentrate all his people in one formidable body, and his enemies would most probably be deterred from further incursions; whereas by leaving his subjects at such a distance from each other, he would only expose them separately to more frequent attacks.

At parting he gave us a salute with eight muskets, 5 and requested the loan of a brace of pistols, in addition to his supply of firearms, which was readily granted. But this favour excited the jealousy of Korra-korra, who immediately asked us to let him have a

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brace likewise, which we however as promptly refused, not deeming it expedient to gratify him in this instance. He appeared much chagrined at the denial, but it caused only a momentary impression; and he left us immediately after, to return to his district, being accompanied by the mate of the vessel, whom we sent with him with a quantity of salt and some casks for the fish.

After we had dined with Mr. Kendall, who entertained us with the warmest cordiality in his new habitation, we went to drink tea at Mr. Hall's, where we were presented with a lively scene of active industry. He was occupied himself in various departments of useful employment; and Mrs. Hall, while she took the chief part in the domestic concerns, had two of the native women under her instruction as assistants, and who were now very busy in washing our clothes. I went up to the town in the course of the evening, and purchased some thread and a few more curiosities in addition to the stock I had already by me; but I found the place almost deserted, the greater part of the inhabitants having gone with their chief to Doubtless Bay.

The twenty-seventh was a day of more

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than usual bustle and activity; the sawyers cutting timber from morning till night without intermission, the smith making axes with the same industry, and the carpenter employed with no less diligence in cutting out two draught holes in the bows of the vessel, to enable her to take in a cargo of timber; and when these were completed, we were to take her round to the Cowa-cowa to receive the freight. None of the artisans that accompanied us to New Zealand attracted so much attention among the natives as the smith. To watch his various labours, they would seat themselves for hours together in his forge; looking at each other occasionally with significant amazement, whenever any part of his operations appeared more intricate than usual to their rude conceptions. On these operations they made several remarks among each other; and at first all their senses were astonished at the malleability of iron in its ignited state. They always took care to keep, at a secure distance from the sparks that were struck out by the hammering, of which they seemed extremely apprehensive; and aware of their fears in this particular, I put one of them into a serious fright, for the sake of a little harmless amusement. He was looking

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on while the smith was taking what is termed a welding heat; and just as the hammer-man began to strike, and the sparks to fly out, I took hold of his kackahow, and giving it a violent shake, I called out with instantaneous alarm, "carpulo, carpulo, carpulo!" (fire, fire, fire!) when springing from my hands with an inconceivable agility, he escaped from the forge almost before I could suppose he was frightened.

Upon going into the town on Saturday January 28th, the few inhabitants who had remained there brought me several articles to purchase; some offering me thread and fishing-lines, and others spears, mats, and different sorts of curiosities, some of which were exquisite specimens of original genius. The dealers on this occasion were chiefly women, the men for the most part being all absent; and these ladies appeared to me perfect models of prudent industry and strict application. They were all as busy as they could be; and some of them I saw employed in twisting thread, and several others in making mats, while the same women who sold me thread on the preceding day, were now engaged in preparing more for the market; which proves the activity of their disposi-

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tions. 6 One of the few men who had stayed behind I saw very busy in rubbing a battleaxe over with oil, and polishing it up with his kackahow: when he thought he had made it shine sufficiently, and bad rendered it in other respects completely marketable, he brought it to me for sale; and that I might thoroughly comprehend the use of it, he put himself into a fighting attitude, and shewed me by various explanatory evolutions, the manner he dispatched his enemies. He was not however more careful in shewing me the use of the weapon than he was in setting a price upon it, and I found him a complete proficient in the art of dealing. He asked for it considerably more than it was worth; and to enhance its value, turned it over in his hand several times, that I might see what a good state it was in, assuring me all the while that it was "nuee nuee miti" and driving his bargain like an experienced trader.

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The carpenter having now completed the draught-holes, we repaired on board the vessel, taking our friend Gunnah and another of the natives along with us; and weighing anchor at two P. M. we proceeded to the Cowa-cowa, the wind blowing fresh the whole time. We entered this river about five o'clock, when we made all the necessary preparations for getting the cargo on board as soon as possible. The anchorage here is much more secure than off Rangehoo, and we considered ourselves very fortunate in coming to this place, as well as in having the draught-holes finished at this critical time, for it blew excessively hard during the night; and the following day, Sunday the twenty-ninth, was ushered in with continual rain.

The natives being apprized of our arrival, brought down five spars at an early hour in the morning; and we received visits from several of them, among whom were old Tarra and the bustling Pomaree. While we were sitting at breakfast, we were disturbed by a great clamour upon deck, when leaving the cabin, we found Gunnah in a violent passion with one of the natives who had contrived to secrete a marline spike under his kackahow, but was watched by our friend, who suspected

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his design. The man believing that he had purloined his valuable prize in perfect security, was just in the act of concealing it, as he supposed, when Gunnah rushed upon him with indignant rage, and taking it from him, instantly shouted out for Mr. Marsden to come upon deck. But being now brought into our presence, the culprit denied his having stolen it, insisting that it had been given to him by one of the sailors; Gunnah, however, declared positively that he saw him steal it; "me tickee, tickee," said he with much vehemence, addressing himself to Mr. Marsden, "tungata tihi, no good;" and he described the way in which he saw him secrete it. This testimony being corroborated by some of our people upon deck, Mr. Marsden had the man put into the hold, and the hatchway fastened down; but before this was done, the offender entreated we would allow him to return in the canoe that had brought him to the vessel: his companion, however, refused to take him, and paddling away to the shore, joined with Gunnah in the cry of "tungata tihi, no good." We had no objection to release him, but being thus left behind and despised by his countrymen, Mr. Marsden thought it better to deliver him up

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to Tarra, whose subject we understood he was, and let that chief punish him as he thought proper. All the natives who were upon deck spoke in terms of warm approbation of our lenity to this delinquent; and they unanimously pronounced us "nuee nuee miti" for not flogging him, declaring that had he been guilty of a similar offence on board any other ship, he would have been severely punished. They mentioned to us an instance of extreme severity in this respect, which, as it affects the character of a British subject, it pains me to record. The commander of one of our vessels, they said, had a man shot 7

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for stealing a small axe, during the time he was lying in this cove. Pomaree, whose heart never seemed to incline towards the side of mercy, and who was in the literal sense of the word a cruel savage, though we never had occasion to complain of his ferocity, advised us to hang him up immediately; and the other natives, while they applauded our humanity, evinced at the same time the

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greatest indignation against their guilty countryman. When Tarra came on board we related the circumstance to him, and the old chief was so incensed with the offender, who was now brought before him, trembling with fear, and hardly able to support himself, that snatching up a billet of wood, he threw it at the unfortunate creature with such violence that he laid him prostrate upon the deck. Here he began to kick him without mercy; foaming with rage all the while, and exclaiming against him with furious reproaches: nor would he probably have desisted before he had beaten him out of existence, had not Mr. Marsden interfered to beg him off, while the enraged chief, yielding to his solicitations, consented to pardon the hapless culprit; ordering him into a canoe, and charging him, as he valued his life, never more to appear in his district. But all this indignant vengeance against the wretched creature was only because we were considered as friends; the immorality of the offence being viewed but through the medium of existing circumstances.

Both Tarra and Pomaree visited us again on the following day, the 30th, at an early hour; and the latter, who was as usual, hide-

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fatigable in business, would not let us rest till we shewed him what articles we had for trade, when he became extremely urgent for the market to begin, and was all impatience to make new bargains. He told us that he had several of his people working at the timber district, where they had cut down a number of fine spars; but that they would not be contented, unless we went along with him, and distributed some small presents among them, as a partial remuneration for their labour. This, though we were acquainted with the character of the man, Mr. Marsden and myself did not hesitate to do; and getting into his canoe, we took with us a quantity of nails, scissars and plane irons, with other articles of similar value, to reward their industry.

1   Nail.
2   Fish-hook.
3   A friend of mine, on his first arrival at New South Wales was not a little astonished, while going to put a piece of hot mutton-chop into his mouth, to find it almost a mass of live maggots; and being at a loss to account for it, he facetiously remarked, that they must he so many young salamanders. But a ludicrous circumstance happened to another gentleman of my acquaintance, and which arose from the name cause, for he found a number of these living maggots deposited in his ear; and as he had a complaint in his head; began to he seriously alarmed lest the intruders were breeding there; nor could he for a long time divest himself of the apprehension that a crawling progeny would issue forth from his ear at certain intervals.
4   I am inclined to believe that the New Zealanders very rarely plunder either from the particular tribe to which they belong themselves, or from those tribes with which they are in alliance; but that all their rapacity is directed against those of their countrymen with whom they have not entered into a friendly compact. This rapacity, as it gives rise to frequent lawless incursions, is in my opinion the originating cause of the numberless feuds that distract the island; and avarice, not ambition, may be here considered the predominant principle, while the thirst of fame, though it burns among them, is much easier allayed than the thirst of plunder. In a very interesting communication which I have had from Mr. Kendall since my return to England, I find that Korra-korra and his uncle old Bennee have been committing outrages on their neighbours, not long after our departure; and as this account may give the reader some further insight into the character and disposition of these singular people, I shall subjoin it here in the writer's own words. "Shunghi is a staunch friend; I can depend upon him: Korra-korra is by no means so steady. I must tell you that Korra-korra has been displaying his valour by killing one man of the party of Okeda, the brother-in-law of Shunghi, near one of the Cavalle Islands, where we came to an anchor on our way to the Bay of Islands. Mr. Bennee had been matowing (stealing) some potatoes, while upon an expedition along the coast, which the proprietors resenting, recourse was had to arms: one of Okeda's men fell. Soon after this Okeda mustered all his force, and coming to the Bay, he made a descent upon Mr. Korra-korra, and took away all his hogs and the greatest part of his property. The foal was also slaughtered, as a retaliation for the loss of the man. Shunghi approved of this measure: he said Korra-korra had made a solemn promise to his Excellency Governor Macquarie, that 'he would fight no more;' he had broken that engagement, it was therefore perfectly right that the foal should be destroyed. After the affair was over, Korra-korra paid us a visit. lie wept bitterly, said 'he was no good,' and was very much afraid lest he had incurred our displeasure. He added, he had been provoked to give battle by the excessive violence of the person who had been slain. He made use of the New Zealand curse, poke tokke tokke, or, in English, to hell to be damned."
5   So great is the passion of the New Zealanders for military display, that they never take into account any consideration that might dissuade them from indulging it; and scarcity or abundance, safety or danger, are all the same when this favourite propensity is to be gratified. Though gunpowder is an article so very valuable to them, and one with which they are so rarely furnished, yet Duaterra did not hesitate to make this unnecessary waste of it, to indulge his desire for warlike pomp; even at the very moment he was going to oppose his enemies, when he knew not how much he might stand in need of the quantity he thus idly expended.
6   From all I could sec of these people in the different parts I have visited, I am firmly persuaded that no where can he found a race who are more inclined to industrious pursuits; and when supplied with proper means by which they can exercise their native ingenuity to advantage, they will, in my opinion, not only realize to the full the benevolent views of the Missionary Society, but even exceed their most sanguine expectations.
7   How lost to every sense of feeling and humanity must be the callous and cruel man who could thus devote his fellow-creature to destruction, for an offence of the criminality of which he was perhaps unconscious; and one which in our own country would at most be only visited with temporary exile, but among poor savages ought to be considered excusable! Widely different from this barbarous conduct was that of the excellent and humane Captain Cook, who would neither himself punish petty thefts with death, nor suffer any of his people to do it. It were much to be desired that his countrymen who visit the same regions would follow his example, in place of rendering themselves odious in the sight of every man who has a fellow-feeling for his species. And while he took care to guard the lives of the natives against the wanton cruelty of his people, he also made it his particular business to see that their property was respected, repressing with rigid seventy the plundering incursions of his sailors, who considered themselves privileged to rob the poor Indians with impunity, but who deemed any fraud committed upon themselves as deserving the most condign punishment.
During the time he was lying at anchor in this bay, he had occasion to punish some of the sailors for their depredations on the natives, which he thus relates. "In the mean time some of our people, who when the Indians were to be punished assumed the inexorable justice of a Lycurgus, thought fit to break into one of their plantations, and dig up some of their potatoes; for this offence I ordered some of them to be punished with twelve lashes, after which two of them were discharged; but the third insisting that it was no crime in an Englishman to plunder an Indian plantation, though it was a crime for an Indian to defraud an Englishman of a nail, I ordered him back into his confinement, from which I would not release him till he had received six lashes more." --Hawksworth, vol. ii. p. 366.
And again, where he shews how little the lives of these poor people are regarded by European sailors, he says, "In this skirmish only two of the Indians were hurt with the small shot, and not a single life was lost, which would not have been the case, if I had not restrained the men, who either from fear or the love of mischief, shewed as much impatience to destroy them as a sportsman to kill his game."--Ibid. vol. ii. p. 365.

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