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Letter fron John Gare Butler to Josiah Pratt, November 6th, 1819

Rev. J. Butler to Rev. Josiah Pratt. (The original is in the "Hocken" Library).
New Zealand,
Nov. 6th, 1819.

Rev. and Dear Sir,

I have the great pleasure in informing you that all our little party arrived in safety and good health at the Bay of Islands, on Thursday, ye 12th August, 1819.

I have been in New Zealand three months, and have endeavoured to obtain what information I can respecting the country and its inhabitants. I have made it my business, as far as I have been able, to visit all the inhabitants around the Bay of Islands, and have everywhere been received with the greatest kindness imaginable; and the natives are everywhere begging and praying for Europeans to come and live among them, and their solicitations are beyond anything you can conceive. The prospects are indeed glorious, and I am fully persuaded that New Zealand is ripe for all the instruction and improvement that a Christian world is able to bestow. The New Zealanders are a robust, athletic and noble race of men, of lively dispositions, amazing quick in perception, and, generally speaking, they are a kind and affectionate people. Many of them speak a great deal of broken English, and are very fond of our language. There is no obstacle in the way to prevent our progress in the glorious work of civilizing, and, by God's blessing, evangelising New Zealand, but the want of means and proper instruments. Many schools might be immediately erected, and thousands of children collected; and by the introduction of Dr. Bell system of education in the English language into our schools, New Zealand (according to all human foresight) would in (comparatively) a little time, become an English nation; and thereby possess the Holy Scriptures and a great variety of other useful and beneficial instruction in a translation already prepared to their hands.

The children are quick and acute. A few days ago, I collected some boys together on the beach, and began to teach them the alphabet, and they all repeated the letters as with one voice, and pronounced every letter as distinct as myself. At our new settlement at Kidee Kidee, we have measured the ground for a church sixty feet by thirty-four feet; also for a school, sixty feet by eighteen feet. Many parents have been with me to solicit the admission of their children into the school, even before a single plank is sawn for its erection. Agriculture is another grand consideration, and as agriculture is the wealth of every nation, there is no nation upon earth, perhaps, more favourable for the operations of agriculture than New Zealand, and certainly none that need it more. We cannot carry on our schools without the means of victualling the children, as their parents are too poor, for want of the means to cultivate their land to furnish them with food at the present time. Agriculture will enable us to provide the first necessaries of life, and stimulate the exertions of the natives to industry, and raise them above want; and by furnishing then with constant employment, will tend greatly to their civilization and temporal comfort. I shall, therefore, as far as my means will supply me, turn a part of my attention to this grand public object. This cannot be done to any extent, without considerable expense, in a page 47 land that does not possess in itself a single nail. But I trust the benevolence of a Christian world will not suffer a nation to perish for want of a temporal and spiritual knowledge, as far as they can contribute to their relief.

Upon the liberality throughout the British Empire we will depend, and leave the event to Him Whose is the silver and the gold.

The brig “Active” arrived atBay of Islands on Thursday, 28th October. After her arrival, I went on board to see her, and found her a very strong and comfortable vessel, and in very good order, as far as my judgment goes.

She had been fourteen days from Port Jackson, and has brought us the remains of our stores, and what arrived from England after our departure; with eight heifers, which are now alive, and one bull, two others having died on the passage. The vessel is well adapted for the Mission, as far as safety and comfortable accommodation are required, Mr. Marsden informs me, he shall now make a tender of her to the Society, as he considers the Mission now settled upon a permanent footing, and those dangers and difficulties which were once apprehended, to exist no longer. He will also leave entirely to myself and colleagues to select such natives to visit Port Jackson in future as we may think proper, and under such regulations as may be deemed necessary from time to time to adopt for the furtherance of the general interests of the Mission. I beg leave to observe that there is nothing at present in New Zealand that will pay the expenses of the vessel; the duty on timber, and other expenses at Port Jackson, are so heavy a drawback upon the proceeds of what she carries.

With respect to other things relative to New Zealand, I beg leave to refer you to the general observation furnished by our dear friend, the Rev. Samuel Marsden. The importance of the situation which I hold, as a Minister of the Gospel, and as a steward of the Society to the poor heathen, it often fills my heart with fear and trembling, and I am led to say, who is sufficient for these things? To preach the glorious Gospel of the ever blessed God to these poor creatures, who are indeed sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, with all meekness, long suffering gentleness and forbearance, to endeavour by every means in my power to correct their various habits, to reclaim their wandering feet, and to guide them into the way of everlasting peace, to administer, as far as possible to their temporal, as well as to their spiritual comfort, appears to me, at least, a work of the greatest magnitude, and requires great prayer and watchfulness, courage and fortitude; and I must humbly pray that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Xt will give His heavenly grace, and strengthen me with all might in my inward man: and give me strength of body as well as holiness of heart and life to perform the sacred task, and be found faithful to the Society, and to the perishing heathen around me, so that whenever I am called upon, I may be able to give up my accounts with joy. No one can tell his trials until he gets into the field of action, and it is impossible to say who will be able to stand until they are tried. I am fully aware that I shall have many difficulties to contend with, and many of them of such a nature as no human foresight can prevent. But, however, the work is the Lord's, and it must prosper, for the heathen shall be given to Xt for His inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for His possession, and I humbly trust that the barren deserts of New Zealand and the valleys page 48 thereof (which are now covered with noxious weeds) will ere long stand so thick with corn that they may be said to laugh and sing, and the inhabitants thereof made to rejoice for the gladness of their hearts, because of the loving kindness of the Lord, and for His great mercy and goodness, which He will pour upon them. I conclude this epistle by praying that our gracious God may pour upon our Society and every member of the same, the continual dew of His blessing over all His labours.

Dear Sir, please to give my sincere love to your family, Rev. and Mrs. Bickersteth, Revd. Samuel Crowther and his family, Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, Mr. and Mrs. Broughton, Mr. Daniels, Mr. Sargeant, Mr. Scott, and all our dear friends. Say to Mr. Broughton I have not had time to collect him little things in New Zealand, but will do so as soon as possible.

Dear Sir,
I remain,
Your faithful and obedient servant,


To the Rev. Josiah Pratt,
Church Missionary House,
Salisbury Square,