Letters to the CMS

In July 1820 Charles felt it necessary to write to the secretary of the Church Missionary Society two letters giving his views


New South Wales July 19th 1820

Rev. Josiah Pratt
Church Missionary Society
Salisbury Square London ,

Not having done myself the honour of writing to your Honourable Committee while I was in New Zealand, I feel it my duty as well as my pleasure to avail myself of this present opportunity. Especially as I feel myself called upon to avail myself as to the reason I left New Zealand. I was in the service of the mission two years and eleven months, two years and six months of the above time I resided at the Mission in New Zealand.

During which time I trust all who knew me there could witness for the consistency of my conduct. the expectations of the Rev. Mr Marsden in regard to the cultivation and growing of wheat were too sanguine . But it is also true I did all I could as far as the means I was afforded would allow. Considering at the same time the disadvantageous situation we were in for cultivation and also the tedious behaviour of the natives at that time in not permitting me to cultivating the land I had bought of them without extra payment. Never the less cultivation was carried out to a certain extent tho it would appear small in a civilised country, yet it seemed a good beginning in New Zealand especially to the natives.

It is almost unnecessary to observe that we had many trials to meet with from the natives who were then in a very rude state. As to my dear friends your Society missionaries that were there I believe they did all as much as their circumstances would allow. I believe they were all men of strict piety and had a sincere desire in the conversion of the poor heathen. I shall ever remember their Mr Marsden's arrival at New Zealand with Mr Butler and colleagues. I have reason to believe we were then just beginning to be useful. Mr Kendall had been very studious to learn the language which was a great help to others in learning it and besides the prayers he used to read them on Sundays each of us as we always did before, began to converse all we could with the poor natives about Religion. In this state Mr Marsden found us. We had suffered much, we had done all we could, and we were thankful God had preserved our lives among the heathen.

We had (especially those before myself) borne the burden and heat of the day, had made our footing good and learned a great deal of the language; for my part on the arrival of Mr Marsden I naturally expected we should have been supported and encouraged. But things took quite a different appearance. There were good houses built and fences, yet we were severely blamed and told we had done nothing; no encouragement given to learn the language to instruct the natives but all was hustle and bustle and work, not that we were willing to adjust to anything we could in regard to moving the settlement. But the manner in which myself and others were treated was very improper. Such as I could not by any means labour for any length of time, I was treated as if I had been a common labouring man. The bell was rung for some time three times a day to call us out to work from six in the morning till six at night.

Sent into the woods to cut wood for charcoal or rales for fencing or any other laborious sort of work that could be found to fill up time. We were also sent to row a large flat-bottomed boat that we were not accustomed to, nor yet very well obliged to do when natives might have been hired to do it for a little trade. We had journeys to the Riddee Riddee in this boat and always returned exceedingly fatigued. We might have done many things with pleasure tis true that were not absolutely necessary had we in the proper manner been directed to. There were always plenty of natives to do it for a trifling payment. In short I requested Mr Butler to allow me to take natives with me to do the work, but he would not permit it. But would have the old missionary settlers turned into a working gang.
Myself, Mr King, his own son and Mr Carlisle were particularly treated in this manner and ordered about in the most contemptuous manner in the sight of the heathen and termed labourers. Mr Marsden also acted in the same manner, told the natives we were idle who seeing how degraded we were some pity'd us others mocked us and told us we would be hung and that Mr Marsden would flog us all.

When I went to New Zealand engaged for three years and would have stayed longer with the hopes of the poor heathen improving in their conduct and also of their conversion had it not been for the above reasons. One fortnight after my arrival at New South Wales my beloved partner died in childbed. She had her first child in New Zealand where for want of proper assistance and having a hard labour with other circumstances of having been frightened in New Zealand, bought on a violent haemorrhage which finally terminated her existence, this Dr Bland the gentleman who attended her will positively assert. Tho Mr Marsden has not scrupled to say it was a judgement of God upon me. I feel myself an injured person and ……

They are a very krude savage people and should they once begin they would demolish all the labour that could be done in the settlement for years in a few hours and the imprudent conduct of one white person might aggravate them to do it. If Mr Marsden wishes to form a colony of Europeans at New Zealand it would be proper for him to send a Governor and force to protect or if he means a Mission which I am sure the good people in England wish it why does he not put forward as much as possible the interest of the Heathen. How improper also it is that he should send immoral characters to N. Zealand in the service of the Mission. Such persons do the natives a great deal of harm by leading the poor simple depraved young women in to that which is not good with other wickedness such as swearing etc.

Upon my reasoning with Mr Butler respecting his conduct towards me Mr Marsden desired me to explain the conditions I had engaged with him for. I answered it was to carry on the cultivation and promote it as far as it be in my power, which he sayd was very right. I also expressed my willingness to assist in removing the settlement or anything else I could do to promote the interest of the Society from principle that if Mr Butler wished me to take natives and get into cultivation ten or twenty acres of ground I would do it providing they would pay them, that !I would superintend them and work with them as little or as much as I found convenient. But Mr Buttler answered me I must be ready at all calls must work with and work in with the natives as they did through the whole day. ..six o'clock in the morning... and do what ever was required of me, as for instance, supposing I were sent to dig any persons garden up or fill the dung cart he should expect me to do it.

It is I most sincerely confess very painful to me to write anything to the disadvantage of any person and I should not have prevailed on myself to write this if I was not strongly convinced it was absolutely necessary I should tell the truth in order to clear myself. I leave it all to your better understanding to judge as you think is right. In regard to myself I have but little concern. What I do most earnestly beg the soon as they are settled in their houses they should devote themselves as much as possible to the study of the language, the instruction of the natives, preaching the Gospel to them, and then may you hope for their conversion, also that no person but those who are truly pious persons be kept or employed in the service of the mission residing in New Zealand.

I hope your Society will please excuse what ever you may see amiss in this poor imperfect letter and if the few hints that are in it prove any way serviceable to your society I shall rejoice and be exceedingly thankful. Whatever I have said respecting ~r Marsden or Mr Butler does not proceed from the least animosity or ill will towards them. I freely forgive them and hope it will please God to forgive him. I would not have mentioned what I have were it not necessary for my own justification. I wish to observe to your society as worthy of their serious consideration that I have been greatly concerned at the experience attending the New Zealand Mission by the view of introducing trades such as rope making etc. and also the confining missionary settlers so closely to secular concerns as they are at present under Mr Butlers directions.

He expected every man to be diligent in his business which may be very proper in a civilised country, but in my opinion they should only attend to secular concerns so far as their own convenience and comfort requires such as growing their own wheat gardens etc., building their own house, learning the natives anything useful etc. Not to be closely kept to work as to have no time to learn the language and preach to the natives. For when I left them they were wholly engaged in secular concerns. Nor did it appear that Mr Marsden or Mr Butler expected or desired them to learn the language or to instruct the natives. Mr Marsden's plan is Civilisation.

I humbly contend that nothing will do the New Zealanders any good but preaching the gospel to them, instruction etc. While their hearts remain unchanged they will be savages still. Tis well known no outdoor work can be carried on without great interruption in N.Z. I have conversed with Mr Butler on the subject of civilisation and conversion. He says they should go hand in hand which is a mere deception of himself, he finds himself never adone with secular concerns. How much of the society money might be saved if they would as soon as they have settled themselves, give themselves wholly to learning the language and preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the poor heathen.

I wish only to add that I believe none of the missionary settlers would say any to my disadvantage and that my views being different, and not consider myself well used by Mr Marsden. I did at that time in a most respectful manner request leave of Mr Marsden to resign and return to this colony not willing to be an expense to your Society longer than I had prospect of being useful.

Praying that every Blessing may attend the Society concerns thro the world

Remain your Society's
Most Humble obe'd servant


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SECOND LETTER (in response to a reply)

Charles Gordon
Sydney N.S.Wales
June 241822

I red your letter from the Committee of the Honourable Church Missionary Society dated March 18/21 in answer to the only letter 1 did myself the honour to write to your honourable committee -wherein they have expressed the supposition that I was discharged from the Society's service by the Rev. Mr Marsden for acting improperly. Not willing to trespass on your valuable time and passing over any observation I made in my letter to your Society respecting New Zealand leaving time alone to prove either their futility or the truth of those remarks. And if I have said anything too warmly I humbly beg their pardon and hope they will consider that I had been much hurt in my feelings by the treatment I had experienced -which together with the loss of my dear partner, I hope they will accept as an apology. Had I not sincerely wished the welfare and success of the Mission I should not have troubled your Honourable Committee with those remarks -nor have I to my knowledge said anything but what was strictly true.

I wish only at this time to inform your committee that as long as I remained in New Zealand up to the last day except one I continued to obey Mr Marsden as far as my strength and ability enabled me, except in" one instance when I was required to leave my family for a fortnight to go to Riddee Riddee to break up ground. In regard to my having been discharged by the Rev. Mr Marsden must be a great mistake or a Gross misrepresentation as the enclosed will prove. If such a statement has been published in your Society magazine or paper I humbly hope they will do me the justice to contradict it, having already sufficiently suffered without having my character traduced falsely.

Guide then by His wisdom and make then useful. I cannot tell how your Society will receive this letter but I have no doubt myself but that in a little time you will find the truth of what I have said respecting preaching the Gospel to the poor heathen. I humbly conclude with my hearty prayer of your Society and that it may please God to bless and direct you in all your undertakings is the hearty prayer of your Society’s

Most humble and unworthy

PS. …………… The New Zealanders are a people very susceptible of tender impressions - very clever sensible people and there is every encouragement to hope for their improvement.

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