Art. XII.—Early Visits of the French to New Zealand.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 10th September, 1907.]
The visits of French voyagers to New Zealand form a feature of great interest in our early history, and it may with truth be added that by them much of the first work of exploration on these coasts has been performed. Their contributions to the scientific knowledge of the country were not only of an extensive character, and of the highest value, but were also the first made in point of time, if we except the comparatively scanty contributions made during Cook's first and second voyages, chiefly by Banks, and afterwards by the Forsters, father and son. If there be time, I shall refer to these more fully later on; but the subject grows so extensively under one's research and pen as to be incompressible within the limits of a single paper.
The strange charm and romance which always invested old New Zealand with a halo of glory peculiarly its own seemed to have an especial attraction for the vessels of the French. That halo has long since vanished, never to return, dissipated by the modern methods of colonisation and trade, steam, and electricity. Whilst New Zealand must ever remain the world's ultima thule, it has been dragged from its former obscurity, and upon it must henceforward beat that fierce light which so long has beaten upon the old communities. One reason for this great attraction to the French may have been the tragic occurrence of nearly one hundred and forty years ago, when Marion and so many of his crew were murdered by the Natives at the Bay of Islands as Cook called it, but the Bay of Treachery as Marion's country-men renamed it.
The first visit of the French to New Zealand was made by Captain De Surville, of the “St. Jean Baptiste,” so far back as
December, 1769, at the very moment when Cook was exploring the North Island. A further curious fact of this is that, though both voyagers were within a few miles of each other, neither knew of the other's proximity. On the 9th December, Cook discovered and named Doubtless Bay, and then sailed north; a week later, De Surville entered it, at which time Cook was just opposite, sailing down the west coast of the island, which here is but a few miles across. Unlike the great commander, De Surville was actuated by no spirit of scientific discovery, but by the greed of gain and the search for gold. Representing two or three speculators, he had sailed from Pondicherry, the capital of the French possessions in India, with the view of discovering a wonderful island which report said not only abounded in gold and other riches, but was populated by a curious colony of Jews. For six months he traversed the Pacific on this unsuccessful quest, until brought up by the New Zealand shores at Doubtless Bay, into which he sailed, giving it the very Britishsounding name of Lauriston Bay, for which there is an interesting explanation. John Law, of Lauriston, near Edinburgh, is quite an historical person of an eventful career, which for present purposes may be summarised by saying that he emigrated to France in 1705, where he initiated various wild schemes and speculations, finally becoming Comptroller-General of Finance to Louis XV. His nephew was James Francis Law, with whom this story deals, and who was appointed Governor of Pondicherry, the capital of the French settlements in India. This gentleman seems to have been imbued with his uncle's speculative spirit, for it was he and a friend, M. Chevallier, who chiefly fitted out the “St. Jean Baptiste” on her wild-goose chase over the Pacific. Thus, in compliment, this bay was named Lauriston, and a creek within it Chevallier. There is always some value, and interest certainly, in recording the origin of place-names, so apt are they to become forgotten, and then unknown. Within this beautiful far-north bay now lies the Pacific Cable station, its small staff of workers alone representing the once teeming Native population which long ago preceded to Te Reinga those who now are so quickly following them. De Surville's stay extended over three weeks, and during this time he received the utmost hospitality from the Natives—a hospitality which he shamefully requited. Many of his sailors suffered from severe illness, and it was necessary to bring them ashore; here the Natives showed every kindness to the invalids, assisting them with food and shelter. Their miserable state was rendered still more so by a furious storm of hurricane force, of which Cook makes mention; in it one of the boats was missing, which strict inquiry and search failed to recover.
De Surville, rightly or wrongly, suspected the Natives of having stolen it, and on this assumption resorted to most cruel measures, burning their houses and canoes, maltreating them, and finally taking as a prisoner on board his vessel the chief Naginoui, who had proved himself the sick sailors' most faithful friend, and had offered his whare to them as a shelter. The surgeon of the vessel, Duluc, thus continues the story: “I was greatly surprised to see that the Indian who had been carried on board, tied hands and feet, was the chief who, directly he had selected a site suitable for the sick, brought me some dried fish in the most feeling manner, asking for no payment. No sooner had the poor fellow recognised me than he threw himself at my feet, and with tears in his eyes implored me, so far as I could guess his words to mean, to protect and intercede for one who had helped me when I myself so greatly needed help. I explained as well as I was able that he should suffer no harm. He clasped me in his arms, pointing to the land of his birth, from which he was being torn. Happily for me the captain took him to his cabin, for I was distressed beyond measure to witness this unfortunate man's dread of the fate before him.” Poor Naginoui did not long survive. The sweetness of man's flesh, of dried shark, and pounded fernroot were for him no more, and within two months after his cruel abduction he died, and was cast overboard, when the vessel was off Juan Fernandez. Those who contend for retributive justice may here recognise an example in the conclusion of this sad story. A fortnight later, De Surville was drowned whilst attempting, in the ship's boat, to cross the bar of Chiloa, on the coast of Peru. Thus was perpetrated, so far as New Zealand is concerned, the first of many acts of cruelty and injustice on the part of the white man from which the Natives have subsequently suffered. Well may the savage take utu, or vengeance, out of all proportion to the wrong which his rule and practice impel him to right. The Abbé Rochon, who collected the account of this expedition and of that which follows, published them in a volume of great rarity, concluding it thus: “But the manner in which he treated those Natives who had the misfortune to come across him, his seizures of defenceless men who trusted to his faith, the artifices he adopted to deceive those who had the good sense to mistrust him, will always be a stain on his memory in the eyes of those who have any sentiment of humanity and justice.” Those words retain their weight and application until to-day.
The next visit in point of order was a most eventful one, and ended in terrible catastrophe. It was an expedition undertaken in 1771–72 by Captain Marion du Fresne, an able and zealous officer of the French marine, who, like others of his
countrymen at this time, was fired by the desire of making discoveries in the comparatively unknown South Seas. It consisted, as was usual in those days, for mutual assistance and support, of two companion vessels—the “Marquis de Castries,” commanded by the Chevalier Duclesmeur, and the “Mascarin,” commanded by Marion, who had also charge of the expedition. The vessels sailed from Mauritius, or the Isle of France, as it was then called. The course taken was by the Cape of Good Hope, Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Guam, Manila, and thence home. For six days they anchored in Frederick Henry Bay, Van Diemen's Land, searching, but unavailingly, for water. Their reception by the natives was of a very unfriendly and, indeed, ferocious kind. One incident serves to show how easy it is to misinterpret the actions of savages, and what unexpected results may follow therefrom. When M. Marion landed, a savage stepped out from the group of Natives and offered him a firebrand, apparently in order to light a little pile of wood. The commander, thinking that this was a ceremony intended to show that he was credited with pacific intentions by the islanders, did not hesitate to light the pile. But it immediately appeared that this was quite wrong, and that the acceptance of the brand was an acceptance of a defiance, or a declaration of war. Thereupon, with a fearful cry, the whole mob of Natives attacked the party with stones and spears, wounding several. The Natives are described as of ordinary height, black, with woolly hair tied in knots and powdered with red ochre. Several had on the skin of the chest those white ornamental scars or cicatrices which it is known are so common amongst Australian blacks. Finding the country as wild as its inhabitants, Marion sailed for New Zealand, and it is here that the mournful interest of his voyage lies. For a month—this was in April, 1772—the vessels were lying off and on the west and north coasts of the North Island, and here Marion pays a high tribute to the chart which had already been laid down by Cook, and by which he was steering. “I found it,” he says, “of an exactitude and of a thoroughness of detail which astonished me beyond all powers of expression, and I doubt much whether the charts of our own French coasts are laid down with greater precision.” At last the anchor was dropped in the Bay of Islands, not far from the island of Motuara, upon which the sick were placed and a guard picketed. The Natives speedily came on board, unarmed, and with the greatest confidence, and soon created a most favourable impression upon the visitors—a very different one, indeed, from that of the Van-Diemonians. A small trade or barter sprang up, and in a few days there was the most affectionate feeling between the
two people. The Frenchmen were invited to visit the various settlements, an invitation which they accepted, always, however, taking the precaution to go well armed. The description given of their villages and pas, food, implements, clothing, and personal qualities is alike minute and interesting. The careful observations made and the critical faculty displayed in this voyage compare well with those of present ethnological methods, and it is satisfactory to see in that accomplished compendium of research on the Maori and Polynesian which has recently appeared that Professor Brown has availed himself of Marion's details. Every assistance was given them whilst procuring kauri spars. They were invited everywhere, everything was shown them, and every gratification and dalliance in the power of the savages to bestow was bestowed. And so passed, for the rough sailors, a delightful time—a whole month in paradise. Gradually any fears or suspicions first entertained regarding their hosts were lulled. They penetrated considerable distances into the country, returning far in the night, and accompained by joyous escorts of Natives, who carried them when tired. So far, indeed, was confidence established, that Marion gave orders that boats visiting the shore should go unarmed, though this was in spite of the warnings of his lieutenant, Crozet, who constantly reminded him of Tasman and Massacre Bay. At last came the catastrophe. Marion, with fifteen officers and men, went ashore, and did not return at nightfall. This, however, excited no suspicion on board the vessels. The following morning the longboat, with eleven men, was sent ashore for wood and water. Shortly afterwards one of this number was descried swimming towards the ship. A boat was lowered at once, and the man picked up, badly wounded. His story filled every one with consternation and fury. It appeared that on landing the sailors of the long-boat were, as usual, met and accompanied by the Natives; they separated to collect their supplies, and were then attacked furiously. by the Natives, who murdered every one with the exception of the narrator, who succeeded in hiding himself in the dense bush. It was at once apparent that Marion and his party must have shared the same fate. An armed detachment was immediately sent on shore to render aid to two or three little depots or outposts. This was successfully accomplished, and Lieutenant Crozet skilfully managed to collect all his tools and firearms, and to conduct his party of sixty strong along the sea-shore to the point of re-embarkation. Now came the exciting moment. They were followed and half surrounded by an ever-gathering throng of wild savages intent upon an attack, who, with loud yells, tauntingly shouted, “Tacouri mate Marion, Tacouri mate Marion”—Tacouri has killed
Marion. With difficulty Crozet restrained his men from firing into the crowd, promising them vengeance when safety was insured. A thousand men had crowded on them by the time the boats were reached, and these were launched with the greatest difficulty. With a wild yell the savages then rushed forward to the attack, but a well-directed volley, followed by another and another, struck them with panic, and averted otherwise certainmassacre. The remainder of their stay in New Zealand, whilst collecting material for the further voyage, was one of incessant watch, harass, and skirmish, and concluded with that general reprisal which all craved for—villages and canoes were burnt, and as many Natives were shot as failed to keep out of harm's way. Abundant evidence was discovered as to the sad fate of their lost comrades. Articles of clothing were found or seen on the persons of the Natives; Tacouri, who kept well out of reach, was wearing Marion's scarlet and blue mantle. The most sickening proofs of cannibalism abounded. Gladly at length the voyagers pursued their homeward voyage, conferring on the scene of their terrible disaster the name of Port de la Trahison—Bay of Treachery—Bay of Islands, as it had been named by Captain Cook two years before. The North Island was taken possession of by Marion in the name of the King, and by him named France Australe, but it is needless to add that Cook had in this matter anticipated him. What was the cause of this savage outbreak, which, on the face of it, appears an instance of the blackest treachery? Crozet says, “They treated us with every show of affection for thirty-three days, with the intention of eating us on the thirty-fourth.” The Abbé Rochon—a friend of Marion's, and the editor of his voyage—considered it an example of the savages' lex talionis—revenge taken for injuries done by De Surville, and referred to above. Captain Dillon, the discoverer of the fate of La Perouse, was told by the Natives in 1827 that a quarrel arose with the seamen about a fishingseine. Dr. Thomson, in his “Story of New Zealand,” concludes that it was due to some violation of tapu; and the Rev. Samuel Marsden, as the result of his inquiries, resorts to the same conclusion. I am, however, inclined to consider that, in the present instance at least, no other explanation is required beyond that of the perfidy and rapacity which are such eminently marked traits of savage character. Long afterwards the sickening circumstances of the event found a place in New Zealand song and story, and whenever Frenchmen visited these shores they were known as of the “bloody tribe of Marion”—an undeserved appellation. They were also called the “Wiwis,” doubtless from the frequent use of their affirmative, oui. The work in which this eventful expedition is preserved was pub-
lished in 1783, and is of great rarity. It was edited by the Abbé Rochon, who, whilst a cleric, was also an accomplished geographer and extensive traveller; he should, indeed, have formed one of this unfortunate expedition. The work was well translated, edited, and illustrated seventeen years ago by Mr. H. Ling Roth, who, unfortunately, omits the quaint plates and charts of the original (seven in number), the preface by the Abbé Rochon, and also his important appendix relative to De Surville. The omission is difficult to explain, though from the preface there seems to be some perplexity or doubt in Mr. Roth's mind as to whether there was more than one original edition. This difficulty, however, was laid to rest in a review by the present writer, written upon the appearance of Roth's translation. It will be observed that these voyages date about and shortly after Cook's first voyage and discovery of New Zealand in 1769–70.
The next of our visitors to these coasts were the members of that interesting expedition sent out by the French Government in 1791 to search for their lost navigator, La Perouse, of whom, it will be remembered, no tidings whatever had been received after his departure from Botany Bay in March, 1788. The vessels of the expedition were the “Récherche” and “Esperance,” under the command of Captains Bruny Dentrecasteaux and Huon Kermadec. These names will be recognised in connection with the Huon pine, the Kermadec and Récherche Islands, and Dentrecasteaux Straits. Two or three days in March, 1793, were spent off the north coast of New Zealand in intercourse with the Natives, but, remembering the fatal disasters that had befallen Marion, no attempt was made at landing, and the vessels passed on to Tongatabu. The history of this voyage was written by Labillardiére, the celebrated naturalist. It was he who first brought to Europe plants of the New Zealand flax, which he successfully cultivated and experimented on with regard to the comparative strength of its fibre. It may be added that though the quest of the expedition was extensive, and extended over two years, no clue whatever was found of La Perouse's missing vessels, the “Astrolabe” and “Boussole.” The mystery that for forty years had enveloped them like an impenetrable cloud was dissipated by a countryman of our own, Captain Dillon, an old ship-captain, who nearly a century ago plied amongst the Pacific islands, and had an intimate knowledge of the New Zealand wild life of that date. Following up the slight traces of a few glass beads, buttons, and ornaments, he discovered in 1827 the undoubted fate of La Perouse, and the wreck of his vessels, which occurred at Vanikoro, the southernmost island of the Santa Cruz group.
For these services he was made by the King of France a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and received a pension of 4,000 fr. a year. The account of his adventures, and of this search, is of the most enthralling kind, and was published in 1829, followed by a French translation in 1830.
Returning from this digression, a period of thirty-one years elapsed between the visit of Labillardiére in 1793 and that of Lieutenant Duperrey in 1824. But during this period New Zealand had been rapidly emerging from her age-long obscurity. Not only was that faint figure on the map—so like a note of interrogation—which Tasman had allotted to her now replaced by her true position and shape, but the rough whalers and sealers were around her coasts, and for ten years Mr. Marsden and his missionaries had endeavoured to introduce to her the blessings of the Gospel and civilisation, but, alas! so far with but little success. Duperrey commanded the corvette “La Coquille” during her voyage round the globe, and he spent a fortnight of April in the Bay of Islands, which was the rendezvous of vessels for rest and refreshment. Unfortunately, the history of this portion of his visit was not included in that magnificent work published by the French Government descriptive of the voyage. The atlases contain, however, eight fine plates of the Natives, their implements, &c., and view of the mission premises at Kerikeri. This deficiency is, however, the less to be regretted, being greatly supplied by some personal observations of M. Dumont D'Urville, a junior officer of the expedition, to whom later reference will be made, and a geographical memoir on New Zealand by M. de Blosseville, also a junior officer. Both were most assiduous in collecting information from whaling captains, Natives, and other sources, with the result that much curious and valuable information not met with elsewhere is given on many points. D'Urville describes the secrecy and mystery with which a chief entered his cabin, carefully shut the door, and then produced from under his mat a beautifully tattooed head, which he offered to sell for a little gunpowder. With great delight he told its story, and pointed out its beauties, showing where and how the fatal blow had been delivered, and where a dog had made off with part of the jaw, beside a few other similar details; but, as no sale was effected, the chief declared that he would restore the head to the tribe with which he was at war, and so restore peace—another way of offering the olive branch. Whilst the sailors revelled in the haka and other dances of the women, the chief viewed them with sovereign disdain and contempt. But let there be a war-dance, his aspect changed at once, and he could no longer preserve the dignity and constraint he imposed on himself in the presence of his
new friends: his features lighted up, his eyes rolled in their orbits, his knees shook convulsively, he thrust his tongue out of his mouth, and presently, in spite of himself, he joined heart and soul in the yells and leaps of the warriors. The “Coquille” brought down with her from Sydney, in polite compliance with Mr. Marsden's desire, Mr. George Clarke and family, who had been awaiting a suitable opportunity to proceed to the Bay of Islands as one of the band of missionary settlers there. Mr. Clarke's name is well known in early New Zealand history as Protector of Aborigines, an appointment conferred on him by Governor Hobson in 1840, and filled by him with advantage to both colonists and Natives during the stormy period of those early days.
The next visit to be recorded is that of Captain D'Urville, who circumnavigated the globe during the years 1826 to 1829. On this occasion he commanded the old vessel in which, as junior, he had sailed two years before with Duperrey; but now her name was changed from the “Coquille” to the “Astrolabe,” in memory of La Perouse, whose sad fate was yet shrouded in mystery, and still unceasingly deplored. Her crew were eighty in number, thirteen of whom were officers and scientific men, and as such their names will ever be held in repute—Quoy, Gaimard, Lesson, and De Sainson. The stay in and about the coasts of New Zealand extended over two months—from January to March, 1827—during which time D'Urville sailed up the west coast of the South Island from about Cape Foulwind, through Cook Strait, and along the whole east coast of the North Island, finally departing from the Bay of Islands. Throughout this course he added greatly to our geographical knowledge, though gained in the face of violent storms, and beset more than once with imminent danger of shipwreck. This was especially the case whilst exploring Massacre (or Tasman's) and Blind Bays. With these his name will ever be associated in D'Urville Island, Astrolabe Roads, the Croixelles, and the famous French Pass, through which at ebb and flow the waters rush with all the fury of a cataract. He first sailed through these tumultuous waves, pointing out to the mariner how he might thereby save twenty miles of his course; and the story of those few but exciting moments is told with such dramatic force as to be worth repeating. He is now about to proceed northward from his anchorage in Tasman's Bay to Admiralty Bay, through the French Pass. “Throughout the evening and the night the unvarying east wind blew with fury and in violent gusts. Our position was still more precarious than on the previous nights, for, had we drifted, the wind would have driven us directly upon the reef of the pass, and there our lot could not have been
doubtful. At last day broke, with better auspices, which seemed to promise me a favourable wind. Not to neglect any precautions in my power, I pulled to the S.E. point of the pass, and climbed to the summit of the hill which overlooked it. This was no easy matter, owing to its steepness and the dense fern which clothed it. Arrived at the top, I took in the whole position, and concluded that, taking every precaution, I could sail through the narrow channel. Still, my eyes were not blind to its danger, and to the fact that failure meant catastrophe. Involuntarily my gaze turned to the corvette, so beautiful, so well equipped in all respects to perform her long and important voyage, and so full of her living freight. And then I thought that by a word from me her destruction might be accomplished amongst the rocks at my feet, and that my whole crew of officers and men, who so long had dwelt aboard as in a home, might be cast on the inhospitable shores, perhaps to perish, never again to see their relatives and friends. Thoughts such as these shook my resolution, but only for a moment, and I then returned on board determined to try my fortune. At 7 o'clock the anchor was hove and dropped again 6 fathoms nearer the vessel. Soon after, the breeze becoming steadier and more moderate, and the sea quieter, I determined to get under sail, so as to better handle the vessel. We had taken up the stream cable astern, and faced the bows so as to catch the wind the moment the anchor was raised. All this was quickly done. At the same moment the storm trysails, foresail, and foretopsail were unfurled, and for some minutes we steered well; but the moment we entered the pass, the impetuous current swept us to port In vain I put the helm hard down, and clewed the sails so as to stand in for the land. The corvette refused to steer, and, mastered by the current, she could not avoid being carried towards the rocks which terminated the reef, and on which I knew there were not more than 10 ft. or 12 ft. of water. Shortly after, the ‘Astrolabe’ touched twice; the first shock was slight, but with the second there was an appalling grinding noise, followed by a prolonged shock. In a moment the corvette stood still, and listed over to port, which gave me some hope that she was neither on the rocks nor stove in. At this moment the crew raised a terrified cry. With a bold voice I shouted out, ‘It is nothing; we are clear.’ And, indeed, the current, sweeping the vessel along, forbade her from resting on the fatal rock, and then the breeze springing up enabled us again to steer, and thus, freed from our fears, we glided with filled sails into the peaceful waters of Admiralty Bay, our sole loss being a few fragments of the keel, which floated in the eddy around us. My preoccupation in sailing the vessel prevented me from seeing anything
else around me, but those of my companions who could give more attention said it was a magnificent sight to see the ‘Astrolabe’ bending down as though to allow the surrounding whirlpools to engulf her, and then, gracefully rising, sail with majesty through them to the quieter waters beyond.” Such is the thrilling story of this courageous and resourceful sailor who first sailed through and named the French Passage. Even now, though steam has robbed it of every danger, the passenger traverses it with awe and bated breath. The remainder of M. D'Urville's stay in New Zealand was marked by further dangers, due to tempestuous weather, which seems to have been raging round its coasts. His visit to the Bay of Islands, however, greatly made amends. It was of over a week's duration, and he was warmly received by his former friends the missionaries, the brothers Henry and William Williams especially. He made extensive surveys along the eastern coast, and collected valuable information regarding the Natives and the natural history of the country. One of his remarks exhibits singular prevision where treating of possible future settlement in the country. His points of selection were the neighbourhood of Cook Strait, and then the Hauraki; fourteen years later at these spots were founded Auckland and Wellington. On his return to France the results of this expedition were printed by the Government in the most elaborate and sumptuous manner in eleven octavo volumes of letterpress and six folios of accompanying maps and illustrations. These consist not only of the history of the voyage, but of scientific contributions to most departments of science, and all are of great value. Two of the volumes are devoted to New Zealand, and really form a standard reference on the subject, and although, unfortunately, but little known, are well worthy of translation. In one closely printed volume of 800 pages is brought together from every source what may be considered the chronicles of New Zealand from the discovery by Tasman to date. Altogether our indebtedness to this great voyager and his celebrated companions is not to be overestimated. His name remains with us not only attached to important surveys, but also to many of our New Zealand plants.
In October, 1831, Captain Laplace, in the discovery vessel “La Favorite,” spent a week at the Bay of Islands to rest and refresh his crew, enfeebled and almost decimated by diseases of tropical climes. Short as the stay was, he made an accurate survey of portions of this large bay, many of its inlets, the Kawakawa River, and adjacent country. The charts are remarkably accurate, of artistic beauty, and with all the finish of engravings. To him again are we indebted for further early
and complete surveys. The results of Laplace's interesting voyage were, like those of his predecessors, issued by the French Government in the same magnificent style of type and illustration, and again showed the right of France to stand in the foremost rank of cultivated nations, and of her splendid recognition and aid of scientific labour. Unlike D'Urville, who abounded in facts and observations, and rejoiced in the details of his travel, Laplace prefers to treat his subjects from a speculative or philosophic side, whether they be the manners and customs of a savage people, the usages of people more advanced, or the growth and policy of a young colony. His style is most interesting, as where, for instance, he discusses the policy of France and England in distant seas, the punishment of crime by penal servitude, and the development of England's colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. Short though his sojourn was, and disagreeable as we must conclude it to have been, it nevertheless resulted in the making of some early history, and hence has a special interest for us. He describes the Natives as filthy and detestable, the chiefs as not worthy of the name, and the women, excepting the young girls, as disgusting specimens of humanity. Nor has he much good word for the missionaries; he compares them unfavourably with those of his own Church, accuses them of greed, and bitterly complains of their refusal to render assistance to his sick sailors. He states, what was certainly untrue, that they spread the report amongst the Natives that the great French vessel, with four hundred men on board, had come for the purpose of avenging the death of Marion and of seizing the country. It is certain that he saw in New Zealand no man's land, and, unappropriated as it was, a country admirably suited for French possession in the Pacific, and it is probable he took no pains to conceal such an opinion. Be this as it may, the following interesting document was sent to King William by thirteen chiefs, who thus sought his protection. It was signed by them the day after the “Favorite” had dropped anchor at Kororareka, hence her arrival was not unexpected:—
To King William, the gracious chief of England.
King William,—We, the chiefs of New Zealand, assembled at this place called the Kerikeri, write to thee, for we hear that thou art the great chief of the other side the water, since the many ships which come to our land are from thee. We are a people without possessions. We have nothing but timber, flax, pork, and potatoes. We sell these things, however, to your people, and then we see the property of Europeans. It is only thy land which is liberal towards us. From thee also come the missionaries, who teach us to believe in Jehovah God and in Christ His Son. We have heard the tribe of Marion is at hand, coming to take away our land, therefore we pray thee to become our friend, and the guardian of these islands, lest the teasing of other tribes should come near to us, and lest strangers
should come and take away our lands. And if any of thy people should be troublesome or vicious towards us (for some persons are living here who have run away from ships), we pray thee to be angry with them, that they may be obedient, lest the anger of the people of this land fall upon them. This letter is from us, from the chiefs of New Zealand.
This curious document evidently bears the impress of the missionary hand, which, like that of Laplace, shows patriotic sentiment. It would be foreign to the idea of this paper to pursue this episode further, and it must suffice to add that the outcome and reply was the appointment in 1833 of Mr. James Busby as British Resident at the Bay of Islands. The letter of the chiefs was forwarded to the Colonial Secretary at New South Wales by the hands of the Rev. William Yate, the missionary, in order to be transmitted to the King.
An interval of more than six years now elapsed before the next two visits of the French, and these followed in close succession, creating increased suspicion and alarm amongst the Natives. In April, 1838, the corvette “Héroine,” under command of Captain Cécile, anchored in the Bay of Islands, where she remained for more than a month. Like that of her predecessors, part of her business was to survey the adjoining shores, and to facilitate the work small flags were erected on various points. The Natives concluded that this indicated the first steps towards seizing their country, and in great excitement sought the opinion and advice of their friend and principal missionary, Mr. Henry Williams, who laughingly allayed their fears. The wildest reports fly abroad in times of panic, and now it was reported that, as the missionaries were inciting the Natives to attack the “Héroine,” the captain had taken the precaution of double-shotting his guns.
Another source of distress and alarm which specially involved the missionaries was the arrival shortly before of the French missionary, Bishop Pompallier. This was followed by great excitement and ill feeling, the Natives taking sides, and more than once placing the bishop in some jeopardy. To quell or allay this was one of the objects of the corvette's visit, and, though amidst military salutes and salvos of artillery the episcopal dignity was speedily secured, no real peace was made between the contending parties, and old settlers began to wonder what was the next move on the board.
A few months later, in October of the same year, the frigate “La Vénus,” also on a voyage of scientific and other discovery, came into the Bay of Islands, under the command of Captain Du Petit-Thouars, and also remained a month. The vessel had then arrived from Tahiti, after inflicting most severe—and, as many considered, most unwarranted—punishment on Queen Pomare and her unfor-
tunate subjects. The offence alleged was that two Roman Catholic priests who had landed, desirous of promulgating their faith, were forbidden to remain, and, refusing to leave, were gently if forcibly removed. A full account of this peculiar transaction, which finally ended in the cession of Tahiti to France in 1843, is given in “Polynesian Reminiscences” by Mr. Pritchard, the British Consul at Samoa and Fiji. As with the other voyages published by the French Government, that of the “Vénus” is magnificently produced. Three hundred and fifty pages relate to New Zealand, the Natives, Bishop Pompallier's mission, the Rev. Dr. Ĺang's “Letters to the Earl of Durham” regarding New Zealand, and to Baron de Thierry, who was so curiously connected with the early history of New Zealand, and of whom many pages might be written. In the folio atlas is a view of a Native village, an excellent chart of the Bay of Islands, and other illustrations.
In March and April of 1840 the intrepid D'Urville paid his third visit to New Zealand, whilst in command of another voyage of discovery round the world and towards the South Pole. One of the vessels of the expedition was his old corvette the “Astrolabe,” the other the “Zélée.” An additional feature of interest to us in connection with this visit is that New Zealand had become a British colony two months before, so that no longer might France covet its possession. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed, Captain Hobson was in supreme command, and the infant settlement was full of speculation and excitement. All this is well described by D'Urville, who is unsparing in his criticism of these events. His first stay, however, was at the Auckland Islands, at that time full of the bustle and activity of whaling and sealing parties, and he relates something of this wild life and adventure. Brought up by a wall of ice, his efforts to reach the South Pole abruptly terminated after reaching the latitude of 64° S. Returning slowly north, and roughly surveying the coast past Stewart Island, the Molyneux, and Cape Saunders, off which he was nearly wrecked, he sailed inside the Otago Heads, then a whaling settlement belonging to the brothers Weller, of Sydney. The description of the scenes around him is not cheering. The Natives especially inspired him with disgust—so different from those whom he had seen on his previous voyage in 1828. Contact with the whalers had ruined them. No longer were they the proud and haughty savage warriors: they were like impudent mendicants, dressed in filthy rags, their hovels miserable and poisonous, with a little straw on the ground for bedding. Old Taiaroa is specially singled out for description. The whole settlement appears to have been of the most debased kind; but it is not necessary
to describe it further. Still proceeding up the east coast, a short stay was made at Akaroa and Banks Peninsula.
Five months later—in August, 1840—the French vessel “Comte de Paris” entered the Akaroa Harbour with sixty emigrants on board, only to find her arrival anticipated by the English man-of-war “Britomart.” With a more detailed account of this incident this paper may be fitly concluded. It is very probable that D'Urville had knowledge of the expected arrival of this vessel, in which case his visit to Akaroa—a harbour somewhat difficult of approach by a sailing-vessel—is explained. He did not, however, hold it in any estimation as a place for settlement; it was somewhat superior to Otago, and that was the outside of its merits. His sojourn at the Bay of Islands was of four days’ duration; but, as already intimated, the amount of information he and his officers collected regarding the new condition of things was very extensive, varied, and certainly not favourable to the English, whom he apparently viewed as interlopers, about to drive away all trade but their own, and usurp to themselves the Bay of Islands, hitherto free to all nationalities. Many little incidents occurred to mark as well as mar his short sojourn. Shortly after his arrival at the Bay of Islands Captain Hobson's secretary paid him an official visit, offering, on behalf of Captain Hobson, any assistance or services which could be rendered. The interview was formal and trivial, and any discussion on the subject of taking possession was avoided by D'Urville, who concluded the interview by informing the secretary that, whilst happy to return the visit, it must be to Captain Hobson simply as an officer of the Royal Navy, and not as the Governor of a British colony. D'Urville could not therefore have been astonished, on returning the visit, to find the Governor “out,” and not expected to return until the evening. He called upon Mrs. Williams, the wife of the missionary; her reception, he remarked, was cold, but polite. Still, he had something his own way. The 1st of May was the anniversary of King Louis Philippe's accession to the throne, and this he celebrated with ceremonial proper to the occassion. The vessels were dressed in flags, and a thundering salute of twenty-one guns broke the echoes of the surrounding hills—a proceeding thrice repeated during the day. The British man-of-war “Buffalo,” from Sydney, dropped her anchor early the same morning, but neglected for a long time to display her flag, in compliment and in accordance with the etiquetteo obtaining between ships of war of different nations. The “Buffalo” was evidently sent down on patrol duty, and to watch D'Urville's movements, for as his vessels finally left the
harbour the “Buffalo” followed, to see them, as it were, safely off the premises—a proceeding, says D'Urville, “which did not in the least touch our susceptibility, but amused us greatly.” Upon his return to France, D'Urville devoted himself to the publication of his great voyage, aided by many collaborators. Its various parts—twenty-three volumes in all, octavo and folio, costing nearly 1,500 fr.—were not completed until 1853, but they appeared in all the splendid rendering that the French Government knew so well how to bestow upon them. Alas! D'Urville was not destined to see much of his magnum opus through the press. In the prime of his life and vigour—for he was but fifty-two years of age—his labours were abruptly terminated by a frightful catastrophe. He, his wife, and only son took train for Versailles on the 2nd of May, 1842—being less than two years after his return—for a day's pleasure. Shortly after starting the axle of one of the carriages broke when the train was at full speed, involving a total wreckage. The carriages and engine, piled together, took fire, and seventyfour of the unfortunate passengers, locked in the carriages and thus helpless, were incinerated. Amongst them was D'Urville and his family, their remains being recognised with difficulty. So perished this eminent sailor, a loss to his country and to science, and who, despite the chagrin and annoyance expressed in his last pages relating to New Zealand, had a warm sentiment and affection for British people.
In conclusion, and to complete this sketch, I return to the “Aube,” the last of our early French visitors, to which is attached another episode in our history. The full and authentic story—for it has had variations—was told by me in a former paper many years ago, and again in the columns of the Argus during the progress of a somewhat warm discussion. It need not, therefore, be now recounted at great length. Years before this colony became a bright ornament of the British Crown, its shores were constantly frequented by whalers of all nationalities Amongst them was one Captain Langlois, who professed to have bought from the Natives, in 1836, 30,000 acres on Banks Peninsula, including the site of the present Town of Akaroa. On his return to France he induced several gentlemen—members of mercantile houses in Havre, Nantes, and Bordeaux—to form themselves into an association for the purpose of founding a colony in New Zealand. It is said that Louis Philippe furthered the project with substantial assistance. In March, 1840, accordingly, the whaling vessel “Comte de Paris” sailed, under the command of Captain Langlois, with sixty souls on board, and, after a voyage of five months, reached Akaroa on the 16th of August. The day before—the 15th—the corvette
“L'Aube,” one of the French squadron maintained for the purpose of looking after the interests of the French whalers in the Pacific seas, arrived at Akaroa from the Bay of Islands to act as tender or convoy to the expected emigrant vessel. What must have been the intense chagrin and annoyance of her commander, Captain Lavaud, to find that H.M.S. “Britomart,” Captain Owen Stanley, had anticipated him by four days, and that the British flag was floating and British authority already established! The fact was that immediately on learning the mission of the French war-vessel Captain Hobson despatched on this service the “Britomart,” then lying at anchor in the Bay of Islands. That old and well-known settler Captain William Barnard Rhodes—familiarly known as “Barney Rhodes”—did a good service at that time which should here be recorded. In November, 1839, he and his partner, Messrs. Cooper and Holt, who conjointly traded between New South Wales and New Zealand, sent several head of cattle to Akaroa. Receiving private information that the French emigrants might be expected there, Captain Rhodes lost no time in erecting a large flagstaff on the spot now known as Green's Point, and gave instructions to Green, who had charge of his cattle, that when the French arrived he was to hoist the British flag, drive the cattle under it, and inform the officer on landing that the South Island had been taken possession of for the Queen by Messrs. Rhodes, Cooper, and Holt. Whatever may or might have been the legal value of such precautions taken by a non-official subject of Her Majesty it is needless to discuss; but they, at any rate, exhibited patriotism, foresight, and ingenuity. Probably the deeds of both Captain Stanley and of Captain Rhodes were really unnecessary, inasmuch as Colonel Bunbury had taken formal possession of the South Island at Cloudy Bay on the 17th June, 1840, two months previously.
Long ago has the warm sentiment of mutual respect and friendship dissipated the envy and ill feeling which once disfigured the great French and British nations. Now they are close friends and allies, and through the long future may there be but one rivalry between them—that of best helping forward whatever advances the progress of humanity and knowledge.