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What They Said About our First JP, Thomas Kendall…

Ric Carlyon - Monday, September 01, 2014


Thomas Kendall, Man of Many Parts
... as seen by those closest to him  

“Kendall, the scholar of the party, an eager student of the language and customs of the New
Zealanders, was so much affected by his environment and the general lack of restraining influences as to give way to immorality and drunkenness. The inner conflict revealed in his correspondence, as he strove to reconcile his mode of life with his continued teaching of Christian ethics to the New Zealanders, is a psychological study of the most intense type” - Marsden's Lieutenants, Edited by John Rawson Elder, Coulls, Somerville, and Wilkie and A. H. Reed, published by the Otago University Council, 1934.

“…Kendall's life was a long struggle with self. It is to his credit, however, that he was animated
throughout his missionary career by an intense desire to put on record the result of his researches into the customs, ideas, and language of the New Zealanders. He maintained his interest in the Maori from the day when he first set foot in New Zealand as the leader of the pioneer party sent by Marsden to make in the Active the reconnaissance of 1814” – John Rawson Elder, ibid

 “…there is nothing more tragic, more pathetic, than the story of Kendall’s decline and fall” - Eric Ramsden, introducing his review of "Marsden's Lieutenants"*, in the Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 1934.

“Truth to tell, Kendall was a man of ungovernable temper, a man of unrestrained impulses” – Eric Ramsden, ibid.

"I think Mr. Kendall will prove himself a valuable man for the work. His heart is engaged in the cause - he is very mild in his manners - kind, tender and affectionate, and well qualified to treat with an ignorant heathen” – Samuel Marsden when Kendall was accepted into Christian Missionary Society, 1813, Marsden’s Lieutenants 

“Both Kendall and (later) Butler were appointed Justices of the Peace… … although they could only employ moral authority in their attempts to bring law-breakers to justice. The growing incidence of prostitution and drunkenness filled the missionaries with horror… …and they also complained that their own missionary work was being undermined” - Transplanted Christianity, Peter Lineham and Allan K Davidson** 

"If Mr. Kendall were to desist writing against any of us, looked to his own duty, and kept busy, sober and quiet, it would be much more to his credit now and greatly to his advantage in the latter end." – John King, fellow missionary shoemaker and flax spinner.

"Mr William Hall (fellow missionary and carpenter) and Mr. Kendall quarrel very much, but they both agree to deprive us of what is right” – John King

“Hall retaliated by firing ‘a pistol loaded with two balls’ which ‘set Mr. Kendall's raincoat on fire and grazed Hall's wife's arm’” – John King after Kendall reportedly attacked Walter Hall with a chisel in the presence of Hall’s wife and baby-in-arms.

“Kendall's supreme effort… …was to sail for England without permission in 1820, with the chiefs Hongi (Hika) and Waikato. Hongi sold the presents he received abroad in Sydney on his return, converting the proceeds into muskets and powder. Thousands perished in New Zealand as a result, slaughtered with the weapons of the Pakeha (European)” – Eric Ramsden, ibid.

“Kendall engaged in musket trading and he became involved with a young Maori girl of high rank” – Peter Lineham and Allan K Davidson, Transplanted Christianity, **  

"Your conduct is calculated to make angels and Christian men weep and devils and New Zealanders (Maori) greatly to rejoice!" – Francis Hall, missionary who later arrived in Bay of Islands. 

“…you have ruined yourself in this life, and lost your honourable and sacred rank in society, which you can never regain to the day of your death… …may God be merciful to you. I feel it my painful duty to communicate to you, as agent to the C.M.S. that you will now consider yourself suspended from duty as a missionary belonging to the C.M.S., until the pleasure of the Society is known” – Samuel Marsden in a letter to Kendall, July 1822 (New Zealand Electronic Text Collection website)



Convict Joseph Backler painted Rev. Samuel Marsden in Sydney - Alexander Turnbull Library 

“I lament his fall, but it has not been sudden. He could never have acted as he has done… … unless he had been under the government of unruly passions. I only wonder that he was not murdered by the New Zealanders!" – Samuel Marsden, dismissing Kendall from the Mission, 1822, for immoral conduct and trading muskets and powder.   

“Kendall - headstrong, self-willed, and quarrelsome, he would have periods of deep contrition; and at all times seems to have the Mission much at heart. Even in his disgrace he begged to be allowed 
to continue his work” – Rt Rev Herbert Williams, Bishop of Waiapu, reviewing "Marsden's Lieutenants"*, Waiapu Church Gazette, October 1934. 

“Mr. Kendall has retired from New Zealand, having embarked on board some ship, with his family, hither for South America or America - we remember not which exactly. Recent information bids us report, that the idea of colonising New Zealand is altogether abandoned. A needy adventurer or two attempted to effectuate certain schemes in London, but for want of sufficient resources, their arrangements were necessarily relinquished, and the new colony ended in a bottle of smoke!”  - The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 14 April 1825.  

“It was impossible to find a parallel in the history of Protestant missions of such inefficiency and worthlessness. The first head of it was dismissed for adultery, the second for drunkenness, and the third for a crime still more enormous than either!" - Presbyterian Minister, activist and republican, John Dunmore Lang. 
“The Materials for “A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand” have for the most part been previously collected in New Zealand by Mr Kendall… …the furtherance of the Mission sent out to New Zealand for the double purpose of civilizing and evangelizing the Natives of the country was the general object for which this work was undertaken” – Professor Samuel Lee, “Director of the Project resulting in this reference work”, Cambridge, 1820.      

Kendall's writings thus deal with the vicissitudes of the New Zealand Mission, his friendships with the great Hongi and other New Zealand chiefs, his researches into Maori religion and ethics, and his ideas with regard to the Maori language. Taken as a whole they are documents of outstanding interest” – John Rawson Elder, ibid


Kendall's primer was published in 1815, among the first Maori words in print

During his leisure the schoolmaster prepared a primer of the native language, which was printed (in 1815) at the office of the Sydney Gazette. Only one copy of the work is known now to exist, and that is preserved in the Auckland Museum” “W.R.S.” writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, 16th July 1932

While much of the credit goes to William Williams for translating the New Testament into the Maori language in the 1840s, the basic work, often unrecognised, had been done by John Kendall in his “A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand” published in 1820” – Erima Henare, Chairman of the Maori Language Commission, March 2014, addressing the Annual Conference of the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices Associations Incorporated. 

As a schoolmaster, Kendall had more work and success. His school was opened In August, 1816, with thirty-three pupils, and a year later there were seventy on the roll, one of the chief, Te Pahi’s, children being of the number” - “W.R.S.", Ibid

…all this is a valuable contribution to what may be called the initial chapter in the colonisation and Christianisation of the Dominion of New Zealand” – J.E.C., The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February, 1920, reporting the discovery of documents in Thomas Kendall’s own handwriting about his missionary activities in Sydney and New Zealand from 7th March 1814.


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