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Today - 200 Years Ago

Ric Carlyon - Friday, December 19, 2014

“Active” in Coastal Waters: Marsden’s Peace-making

The Mission Ship “Active”, carrying New Zealand’s first Justice of the Peace, Thomas Kendall is now in New Zealand coastal waters, having rounded North Cape and today (19th December 1814) is making a run down the East Coast. Leader of the Mission, Rev Samuel Marsden, is keen to meet friends of Maori Chief Korokoro, who’s on board “Active”, which means the ship will visit the Cavalli Islands (Motukawanui).  
As we now know, Marsden witnessed tears as the returning Korokoro was greeted by tangata whenua and the pakeha visitors, introduced by Korokoro to Maori, were also warmly welcomed.
Marsden learned of a tangi of a Maori warrior across on the mainland and decided to attend in the hope that he could talk peace among the natives gathered there and bring reconciliation to inter-tribal hostilities which had continued since the massacre of the Boyd exactly five years before. Maori sacked the ship and murdered most of the 75 passengers and crew, cannibalised.


Marsden’s party went ashore at Whangaroa on the 20th December 1814 under chief Ruatara’s direction and after gift-giving Marsden listened to narratives, teasing out the different versions regarding the consequences of the Boyd tragedy. Tara, who had been a crew-member on the Boyd alleged mis-treatment by the Captain, and had the marks of punishment on his body to prove it. This had sparked the convoluted and confused story of the Boyd episode, a kind of who-did-what scenario leading to warfare between tribes. 
As the day wore on Marsden could see the convivial atmosphere and decided to stay the night in the Maori camp, well aware he was in the company of those responsible for the Boyd massacre. Around the fire Maori Chiefs offered any part of the remains of the ship that Marsden cared to name - Marsden thus knew he had engaged with them so talked of cultivation of the soil, the art of civilisation and peaceful pursuits.

Aboard "Active"

In the morning all the chiefs, without hesitation, accompanied Marsden to the “Active”. This was further evidence, Marsden thought, that relations with the locals were being cemented. He took the opportunity to explain the mission - Kendall had come to teach, Hall to build, King to make lines, and Hansen to command the ship. The onlookers were ranged around the cabin, this unique gathering was brought to a close by a lengthy speech from Ruatara, addressed to Tara, describing the beauties of a peaceful life, and at the same time telling him what he might expect if he declined to follow it. All shook hands, and Marsden had the pleasure of seeing his efforts to secure peace between the contending parties entirely successful.

“Active’s ” next move would be to round the headland into Bay of Islands, to anchor at Rangihoua, the intended headquarters for the Mission, where passengers would disembark and the livestock, poultry and cargo unloaded. 

Sources; NZETC, National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past, Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser

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