Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to his father September 19, 1840
near Port Nicholson
Sep. 19, 1840.
To his father.
It is a long time I think since I addressed you, but I doubt not that you all make common property of my letters, and therefore I am not very particular when I write which of you I address.
I feel thankful at least that I, and yet not I but the Gospel I preach, has been the means of stopping the war between the two tribes among whom I live. Many of the chiefs of the tribe who began the war before I came, now tell me that though they cannot understand all I tell them about a God in Christ reconciling sinners to Himself, washing away sins in His atoning blood, they have nevertheless learned to leave off fighting and working on the Lord's Day. So among this, perhaps the most obdurate of all the tribes in N.Z., there is a little done; many of the young people and a few of the chiefs however regularly attend to my instructions. The other tribe all attend to me, and in the one village in which I reside there are about 500 or 600 at service in the native chapel on the Sunday.
I do not take such a sanguine view of these things as some of our people here; it is not all gold that glitters; nevertheless there is much to encourage me even in "the day of small things"; vast numbers can now read and write well, and when I have lectures of an evening, it amuses me to see the means they resort to to get a place inside the building which will not hold above 200; they climb up on stands that they have made on the sides of their native buildings, and many come a half an hour before the bellpage 166
rings that they may get a seat, so anxious are they to hear the word of God explained. Some come about 10 miles on the Saturday for the services of the next day. It is remarkable to see gun-barrels used for bells, instruments of war turned into instruments for calling to peace.
I have too much work here, but do not misunderstand me, not that I over-exert myself, alas my indolence I fear is my chief sin, but I mean too much for one person to do, so that I can do nothing with pleasure, for while I am about one thing I leave two undone. I long for help, the fields are ripe for the harvest, and none to reap. It is a curious kind of life I lead in the midst of these people, subject to so many interruptions, and moving about as much as I do. I have not much time for reading.
This country is changing fast from the multitude of English coming here, in fact it is impossible to look forward at all, as to what the probable consequence will be as far as regards the natives. For my part, I anticipate no good for the natives, nay I look forward with grief to the state of these poor people, may the Lord disappoint my forebodings. Government at present are well disposed to the natives, but this may be partly policy, being a little afraid of them; time only will show. These people are a very wicked people, and if civilised without the influence of the Gospel to bear upon it will not be benefited in any way. The influence of the immoral English living in the land is the greatest difficulty I have to contend with as they continually object to me the lives and conduct of my own countrymen; these objections I should observe, come from those who have not yet made any profession of the Gospel. I have been abused by the Port Nicholson people in their paper, that is, accused of buying land, and trading for pigs and potatoes with books; I care little what they say about me, and if you should see any of their remarks you will know what credit to give them. Since my visit there however (it is about 30 miles from me), they have somewhat altered their tone. All connected with the Government, among others the Colonial Secretary, were very civil to me, and I lately had two very polite notes from Col. Wakefield. I never have and never intend to court the favour of men, but if, however bad, they are willing to live on friendly terms with me I shall not draw back. I met with some pleasing people among them. I do not wish to be much connected with Government as they have already appointed one Popish magistrate. They however naturally apply to us for information, etc., with respect to the natives, being ignorant of their language, manners, customs, etc.
When I came here I left as it were all comforts and everything connected with civilisation, and I felt it no hardship; I was even thought by people here rash and headstrong for coming here to the Straits alone; but I now have everything almost brought within my reach—however my wants are few. I only mean that you need no longer fancy that I am where I was twelve months ago; I have not indeed moved, but the world has moved towards me.
There is not much beauty in the scenery here, a sandy shore and flat near the sea, but the mountains at the back are fine and I have the hilly island of Kapiti, or "Entry Island," about three miles out at sea, just oppo- page 167 site me. On a very clear day I see three immense mountains, the nearest of which is about 60 miles from me, and they are always covered with snow, viz., "Taranaki", "Ruapehu" and "Tapuaenuku"; this latter on the Middle Island. I expect our vessel here in a few weeks when I intend crossing the Straits and visiting the natives on that island; many of them I know as they are the same tribe as my people here. I intended crossing in my boat, but Mr. Williams, who is an old sailor, strongly urged me not; I therefore gave it up; it is rather dangerous, being about 25 miles across, and there being very strong tide rips, but I have a great desire to go there. I have been to Cloudy Bay on that island at my first tour down here, but I then could not speak the language (and now speak it, I fear, very badly).