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1837 Complaints in the Newspapers

Complaint 1 Sydney Herald 20th March 1837

The Bay of Islands, New Zealand, is inhabited by three distinct tribes of natives, one at Tepunga, the Chiefs of which are Ware Poaka and Waikatto, one at Kororarika headed by Pilori, Peria, Warerahi, Eriwa and Emoka, and  one at the Kana Kana, headed by Ranwiti, Kiwi Kiwi and Pomuri. The whole of these Chiefs, as well as the tribes to which they belong, have one and the same distinguishing features, of which a rapacious, thieving, and greedy disposition is a principal one. They are continually on board some of the numerous vessels that frequent the harbour, either to sell their product, or begging a glass of spirits, of which they are inordinately fond, but principally to see what payment they  can obtain from the master and crew of the vessels by the sale, for the time being, of their daughters, sisters, or female slaves. This species of traffic is carried on to an immense extent, and not only are many thousands of pounds annually given to them for this branch of commerce, but the owners of vessels also suffer greatly by the bread cask being continually open to them, as well as by the waste and destruction of quantities of fresh provisions, which are daily given to their relations, principally from the cabin table, in order to ensure the continuance on board, during the stay of the ship, of the temporary wives of the master and officers. The owners on examining their accounts, no doubt, imagine that their crews have been well refreshed, but far from it, for at least one-third of the provisions purchased during the time the vessel may remain at the Bay, is returned to the natives in the manner described, indeed, out of the numerous English, Colonial, and American whalers, that are continually there, it is seldom that you board one without meeting with six or eight women and girls, with at least as many of their relations continually in the cabin, while every foremast-man has his wife.

Independent of this, the mens' clothing is robbed from them by the native girls, and handed over the side of the vessel into a canoe, where their relations are ready to receive it, high or low, Chief or slave, this is the constant practice, and even His Highness Tilore (as he is styled by the letter which he shews you, as having received from his present Majesty, and which is signed by the Earl of Aberdeen, together with a present of a suit of armour) is continually pandering to the wandering appetite of civilized Europeans, for the sake of a musket, cartouch-box, or blankets, and although not actually a thief himself, will protect his slaves in thieving, provided they be not caught in the fact. I should say that the natives of the Bay of Islands receive in revenue by the sale of their women and what they steal, of at least seven thousand pounds annually, independent of the sale of their provisions, which amounts to another four thousand, making eleven thousand pounds from the shipping alone. 

There is no rule without an exception, and assuming the number of vessels that annually visit the Bay of Islands at one hundred and fifty, there are perhaps one in ten that may be excepted from this description. All of them are undoubtedly obliged to court the favour a little of the Chiefs to ensure supplies; but the generality of them are so captivated with the brown skin of a New Zealand beauty, adorned with a shark's tooth in one ear, and a large black pipe in the other, joined to their breath stinking with the fumes of tobacco and rum, as to fore-go every idea of comfort and cleanliness, by having fifty or sixty of them continually on board their vessels. The men are also strangely taken with a liking of remaining on shore for a month or two principally for the sake of the women and grog, to which they are enticed and decoyed by that mixed race of runaway Convicts and blackguards of the lowest grade, called grog-sellers. These men of whom their are now about seventeen in the Bay, are a complete set of bullying thieves, they endeavor to insinuate themselves into the good graces of the crew by inquiring how their provisions are, in most instances sailors will grumble, and they immediately offer them a home until they can pro cure another vessel, an opportunity is then taken to get their clothes out of the vessel by degrees, in which they generally succeed, and if the men have any pay due to them and the master refuses to pay them off, it is ten chances to one but a coil of rope, spare harpoons, lances, boat sails, and a variety of other small articles are made away with, and a boat set adrift, which probably gets stove on the rocks in consequence, and when recovered from the natives an exorbitant ransom is asked and obliged to be given. After the man comes ashore, he is charged eight shillings a week for his board and lodging, the former consisting of pork and potatoes only, tea and sugar are two shillings a week extra. Of course a wife is indispensable. Jack is then made drunk, and when his bill is shewn him he is informed that he asked every one in the room to drink with him and was supplied accordingly, this soon swallows up every article of clothing which he may be possessed of, his credit may then hold good for a fortnight, when he is sold, as they term it, for an advance of coin, five, or six pounds, and his removal makes way for more, perhaps from the very ship he is sold to.

One of these celebrated men, who is a well known runaway convict, and who went to the Bay about four or five years ago, without any thing in his pockets, now owns a vessel, and boasts of being worth from one thousand to twelve hundred pounds, made by sailors and grog selling, and the purchase of stolen property! The scenes of immorality and drunkenness which are thus exhibited to the natives, are truly shocking, in the shipping season of a Sunday, when the men have liberty of going ashore, it is no uncommon sight to see near one hundred sailors roving about Kororarika beach, most of whom are drunk, and about ten or twelve pitched battles are the inseparable consequence. It is to be regretted that many masters of vessels, who from holding a superior station in life, ought to show a better example, are frequent encouragers of these very men who distress their ships, by not only selling grog and purchasing provisions of them, but by inviting them into their cabins and making pot companions of them, by placing them on a footing of equality, and in a few instances, visiting at their houses and dancing to the discordant sound of a cracked fiddle with their own crews!

A temperance society was attempted to be formed in the Bay of Islands for the purpose of discouraging the sale of spirits, this was, of course, strongly opposed by these men as it would have been their ruin. We all, unfortunately know, that vice is inherent in human nature, and the natives having these scenes constantly before their eyes, are sure to follow the example that they see, and thus the labours of the missionaries are of no avail, for what is one good example compared to a hundred bad ones?

There are also a few respectable Europeans living there, most of whom are married and have families, they keep a kind of general store, for supplying shipping with what articles they may fall short of, and when they do not want to resort to a dearer port; these parties certainly make a much better appearance to the natives, by their attending regularly the church at Paihia and Kororarikia, but they are far from being friendly with one another. Underhanded methods are resorted to in order to obtain the custom of the ships, which creates a jealousy that keeps them from visiting each others families, so that there is no society in the Bay of Islands, and the female portion of the Europeans are no better off than in a prison.  The number of resident Europeans, including all classes of men, women, and children, are about one hundred and fifty, without reckoning the fluctuation of the crews of vessels.

As New Zealand has never been known to be subject, like New Holland and Van Diemen's Land, to droughts, it will eventually become of immense importance to the Colonies, not only as a corn country, but for its timber and flax ; and it therefore remains to be investigated whether it would not be advisable to take formal possession of it at once, in order to put some check on the demoralizing scenes which are daily taking place, and to encourage the natives to industry and civilization, particularly as it is fully ascertained that the conflicting jealousies of the Chief, among themselves prevents any one of them from assuming any superior power, even under the direction of their civilized friends and which might there by prevent many bloody wars at a future period.

These remarks were made during a residence of eighteen months at the place, and may be relied on as a true picture of the Bay of Islands. I M.

1st Reply to the Editor
OUR attention has recently been drawn to this part of the world, by an article in one of our contemporaries; indeed it is quite time that the press generally should
call the notice of the local Government to that savage land, where crime is fearfully making the most rapid strides the mist dreadful ravages, despite of the Missionaries, the British Resident, and the occasional visits of our men-of-war. It is not to be wondered at, when the reins of convict discipline have been loosened to so great an extent, as every candid observer must admit they have been, during the administration of Sir Richard Bourke that the facilities afforded the prison population for escape should have been abundant; the more so when it is remembered that in one year alone, we counted upwards of thirty vessels, small and large, trading to New Zealand, a country in which it is notorious the convict roams at large undisturbed. It is not to be wondered that the latest accounts from this place should state that the most horrid scenes of iniquity of plunder even or murder should be frequently witnessed, crimes perpetrated by the runaway convicts from this colony with impunity, when not one effort ia made by the local authorities to capture and bring to justice this notorious band of outlaws !

We can well imagine the state of society at the principal harbours of Now Zealand, the Bay of Islands, in particular, at the present time. When we last visited that place, a gang of convicts had taken possession of the beach, near which the whaling ships anchor, and immediately opposite to, and about three miles distant from, that occupied by the missionaries and their families. Those vagabonds were carrying on a most profitable trade in rum and tobacco, decoying the good mechanics from the whalers, such as the coopers, carpenters, and blacksmiths, secreting them in the bush till after their ships had gone to sea, at the most ruinous loss to the owners, when they were brought from their hiding places, and openly employed by the prison population, who being generally in a condition to pay high wages, manage in this manner to secure their services, until tired of a New Zealand life, they worked their passage home in some vessel short of hands.

2nd Reply to the Editor.
Sir -My attention has been called to your paper of Monday week last, with respect to communication of one of your correspondents relating to New Zealand as well as to some editorial remarks by two of your contemporaries on the subject and to which I would beg to offer a few observations, having myself spent some time in New Zealand.  The matter first communicated to you is certainly true to the very title, but is hardly explanatory on many points that the writer signed M appears to have overlooked. It would have been more satisfactory if your correspondent had explained why the British Resident does not interfere with regard to the parties called  "Grog Sellers" decoying men from their ships that resort there for refreshments, and which causes, on an average a weeks detention to each vessel, after she is ready to proceed to sea.

This is explained by the British Resident himself, stating that he has no authority to act in any case, except protecting the innocent and deluded natives from being imposed on by the Europeans!!  Surely where there only one hundred and fifty European men, women and children, they cannot be capable of imposing upon about five thousand people, who are conspicuous for cunning and a general knowledge of trading far above any other Islanders in the South Seas.  But it appears that a salary etc, of seven hundred a year is a capital sinecure, for the New Zealanders neither want or need the advice of His Britannic Majesty's Resident in any occurrence or dispute between themselves or the Europeans who are residing among them, as they are fully competent to protect themselves. In consequence of the British resident stating, that if the Europeans take their own part in defending any act of aggression committed on them by the natives, that he will represent the whole affair in the Colonial Government.  Their hands are completely tied, for the British Resident will neither give them or allow them to take redress, and it is well known, that if redress was taken, or even sought for by Europeans on their own account, a partial and coloured statement would be made to head-quarters, and hitherto the British Government, in whatever part of the world established, has been disposed to protect its own officers against private individuals and in many instances, whether right or wrong. If seven hundred a year is to be expended out of the public money, why does not that public receive some benefit from it?  If the British Resident has no authority, why continue the salary?  But if he really has authority, why does he not exert it?  And why is the public not made acquainted as to the extent that his power goes?. Then they would be able to claim protection from him in cases of outrage, whether committed on them by the New Zealanders, or Europeans.  In most instances by the latter.  As the New Zealanders have had a flag given them, and consequently recoqnised as an independent nation, surely one would imagine that it was a British Resident's duty to protect British subjects and not to trouble his head when the Natives quarrel among themselves, further than mild remonstrance, to prevent wars and cannibalism, for they are perfectly capable of defending themselves against any aggressions attempted to be committed on them by Europeans.

The Colonist mentions fire-arms and spirits as being "two of the most deadly and pernicious things which could be given to savages." I perfectly agree with him in regard of the latter, but with respect to the former, he is quite mistaken as it has really proved a blessing to thousands instead of a curse.  In their former wars extermination was their sole aim, but now, a small tribe is able, and frequently dies, defend themselves from the attacks of much larger one.  The New Zealanders do not like getting their chief men killed, and as a musket ball will kill a chief as well as a slave, they have grown timid in their wars compared to what they were formerly, and therefore, they are rather under an obligation to us for fire-arms than otherwise.

In the remarks made by the Gazette, I take the Editor to mean that there are one hundred runaway convicts in the Bay of Islands. This is not exactly correct, although in 1832 (by and by, I believe the Editor has not been in New Zealand since 1831) there were more there then than now. They are rather frightened of remaining at the Bay of Islands, where the name of a British Resident resides, although some few of them have braved that danger, probably from observing that he possess no power.  Wangaroa, Hokianga, Kapiti, Cloudy Bay, Queen Charlotte's Sound, Codfish and Otago as well as many other places in New Zealand are infested by these people. On the whole, there may be between two and three hundred scattered about, who have escaped from punishment and of course live at New Zealand with impunity.

Your Correspondent mentions eleven thousand pounds as being annually given to the New Zealanders of the Bay of Islands by the shipping alone - this appears large, but is still far under the real sum. For reckoning one hundred and fifty vessels, each averaging thirty hands, will give 4,500 persons, each of these have wives who consume at least one and a quarter lb. of bread per day for one month, independent of the fresh provisions which are purchased of them, to feed them again with. But there is also rum, tea and sugar to those in the cabin and event his does not reckon the dependents and Chiefs that are continually on board the ships, feasting at the owners expense.  It is certainly high time that some steps were taken to mitigate this overgrown evil and I do not know a better way than by the owners and masters having a meeting among themselves and forming such clauses in the articles signed by the masters and seamen as to cause the extra expense of provisions destroyed and eaten by the New Zealand women to fall upon each individually, instead of upon the luckless owner. Say, charge so much a head for every day that women are aboard the vessels, they could not object to this, and in time it would work its own cure. The vessels would average one week less time in port, and these "Hells afloat" as they are termed by the Missionaries, will become rather less abandoned in their manners, and the New Zealanders in time may have more cause to bless than to curse our connections with them.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant, J.

Complaint 2 Colonial Times Hobart 11th April 1837

SIRE,-May it please your Majesty to allow your faithful obedient and loyal subjects, at present residing in New Zealand, to approach the throne and crave your condescending attention to their petition, which is called forth by their peculiar situation.

The present crisis of the threatened usurpation of power over New Zealand by Baron Charles de Thierry, the particulars of which have been forwarded to your Majesty's government by James Busby, Esq., British Resident, strongly urges us to make known our fears and apprehensions for ourselves and families, and the people amongst whom we dwell.

Your humble petitioners would advert to the serious evils and perplexing grievances which surround and await them, arising, for the most part, if not entirely from some of your Majesty's subjects, who fearlessly commit all kinds of depredations upon other of your I Majesty's subjects who are peaceably disposed.

British property, in vessels as well as on shore, is exposed without any redress to every imaginable risk and plunder, which may be traced to the want of a power in the land to check and control evils, and preserve order amongst your Majesty's subjects.

Your petitioners are aware it is not the desire of your Majesty to extend the Colonies of Great Britain ; but they would call your Majesty's attention to the circumstances of several of your Majesty's subjects having resided in New Zealand for more than 20 years past, since which, their number have accumulated to more than north of the River Thames alone, most of whom are heads of families. The frequent arrivals of persons from England and the adjacent Colonies is a fruitful source of further augmentation. Your petitioners would, therefore, humbly call your Majesty's attention to the fact, that there is at present a considerable body of your Majesty's subjects established in this Island, and that owing to the salubrity of the climate, there is every reason to anticipate a rapidly rising Colony of British subjects. Should this Colony continue to advance, no doubt means would be devised whereby many of its internal expenses would be met, as in other countries; there are, numbers of landholders, and the Kauri forests have become, for the most part, the private property of your Majesty's subjects.

Your humble petitioners would also entreat your Majesty's attention to the important circumstance; that the Bay of Islands has long been the resort of ships employed in the South Sea fishery and the Merchant service, and is, in itself, a most noble anchorage for all classes of vessels, and is further, highly important in affording supplies and refreshments for shipping. There are also other harbours and anchorages of material importance to the shipping interest, in situations where British subjects have possessions and property to a large amount. The number of arrivals of vessels in the Bay of Island, during the last three years, has been considerably on the increase. At one period, thirty-six were at anchor, and in the course of six months, ending June, 1836, no less than 101 vessels were in the Bay.

Your petitioners would further state, that since the increase of the European population, several evils have been growing upon them. The crews of vessels have frequently been decoyed on shore, to the great detriment of trade, and numberless robberies have been committed on shipboard and on shore by a lawless band of Europeans, who have not even scrupled to use fire arms to support them in their depredations. Your humble petitioners seriously lament, that when complaints have been made to the British Resident of these acts of outrage, he has expressed his deep regret that he has not been furnished with authority and power to act; nor even the authority of a civil magistrate to administer an affidavit.

Your humble petitioners express, with much concern, their conviction, that unless your Majesty's fostering care be extended to them, they can only anticipate, that both your Majesty's subjects, and also the aborigines of this land will be liable to an increased degree of murder, robberies, and of every kind of evil.

Your petitioners would observe, that it has been considered that the confederate tribes of New Zealand were competent to enact laws for the proper government of this land, whereby protection would be afforded in all cases of necessity ; but experience evidently shews that in the present state of the country, this cannot be accomplished or expected. It is acknowledged by the chiefs themselves to be impracticable. Your petitioners, therefore, feel persuaded, that considerable time must elapse before the chiefs of this land can be capable of exercising the duties of an independent government.

Your humble petitioners would, therefore, pray that your Majesty may graciously regard the peculiarity of their situation, and afford that relief which may appear most expedient to your Majesty.

Relying upon your Majesty's wisdom, &c.

[Here follow the signatures.]

Petition of J. Baker and Son, and William Smith, Sawyers, employed by ---' , master of the----, made to the British Settlers on the Hokianga River, New Zealand.

That ----- had engaged their services to fall and saw a quantity of timber on his premises, assuring them that he should have the necessary provisions, trade and clothing, with Mr.---, from whom they were to receive the above, from time to time, while prosecuting their work; that Mr. ----- had in consequence of long absence in the Colony, withheld from them their expected assistance, and that they had in consequence been indebted to Mr. Oakes and others, for saving them from starvation, for that Moetra and his tribe had received instructions from ---- not to allow a foot of plank to be moved from the premises under any pretense whatever. On the return of ----from Launceston, by which time he was indebted to them nearly £100, they requested him, after stating the hardships they had undergone in his absence, to receive the plank they had prepared for him, to settle their accounts, and thus enable them to seek employment elsewhere ; this he refused to do till he had procured the greater part of his cargo up the river, where he lost no time in proceeding, confident, by his intimacy with Moetera, whose child he had long since adopted, of taking their plank at his leisure, and fearful that the arrival of another vessel would deprive him of the timber for sale twenty miles above his settlement. Thus were the petitioners again exposed to a continuance of the misery they had endured all the winter, and apprehensive that Mr. ---- would have disposed of that portion of trade so much required by them, and anticipating by his bad conduct, the same treatment he had evinced to Mr.---, whose timber he had forcibly taken from him on a former occasion, they threw themselves on the mercy and protection of their countrymen.

N.B.-This petition was made by the above named parties at the very time-was receiving from Cassidy, Mr. McDonnel's plank.

It is much to be lamented that a New Zealand missionary should have paid so little attention to the religious duties and, morals' of the European population residing at no great distance, from his station. In fact his dispute with them arising out of secular matters some of them of a commercial nature have kept them constantly at variance.  Instead of confining himself to the duties of his sacked profession, and by precept and example inspiring his own countrymen with sentiment calculated to render them agents in the grand work of civilization, his conduct has counteracted the efforts of his predecessors, and left a most arduous task to be performed by his deservedly esteemed and respected brethren. In fact, the violent acts of oppression he has been guilty of, in several instances since his return to Hokianga, not only to his brethren but to other individuals, call loudly for redress. Only two days previous to the departure of the Starlingshire, he headed a party of about forty natives, and in consequence of some dispute with the owner of a schooner he had chartered some time previous, he boarded her and personally beat the owner, and caused the master, for interfering in behalf of his owner, to be thrown by the hair of the head down the hatchway by the natives; they flourishing their tomahawks over his head, and then cutting the rigging. Such acts will lead to the destruction of every European in the river, unless they are armed with authority, and the natives taught that they are not to interfere in quarrels that do not concern them. ______________ .