George Lillie Craik.

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of the natives had not only stolen the lead off the ship's stern, but
had also cut away many of the ropes, and carried them off in their
canoes. It was not till daybreak, too, that the chief returned with his
second cargo of water; and it was then observed that the ship's boat he
had taken with him leaked a great deal; on which the carpenter examined
her, and found that a great many of the nails had been drawn out of her

About the same time, Rutherford detected one of the natives in the act
of stealing the dipson lead, - "which, when I took it from him," says he,
"he grinded his teeth and shook his tomahawk at me."

"The captain," he continues, "now paid the chief for fetching the water,
giving him two muskets, and a quantity of powder and shot, arms and
ammunition being the only articles these people will trade for.

"There were at this time about three hundred of the natives on the deck,
with Aimy, the chief, in the midst of them; every man was armed with a
green stone, slung with a string around his waist. This weapon they call
a 'mery,'[G] the stone being about a foot long, flat, and of an oblong
shape, having both edges sharp, and a handle at the end. They use it for
the purpose of killing their enemies, by striking them on the head.

"Smoke was now observed rising from several of the hills; and the
natives appearing to be mustering on the beach from every part of the
bay, the captain grew much afraid, and desired us to loosen the sails,
and make haste down to get our dinners, as he intended to put to sea
immediately. As soon as we had dined, we went aloft, and I proceeded to
loosen the jib. At this time, none of the crew was on deck except the
captain and the cook, the chief mate being employed in loading some
pistols at the cabin table.

"The natives seized this opportunity of commencing an attack upon the
ship. First, the chief threw off the mat which he wore as a cloak, and,
brandishing a tomahawk in his hand, began a war-song, when all the rest
immediately threw off their mats likewise, and, being entirely naked,
began to dance with such violence that I thought they would have stove
in the ship's deck.

"The captain, in the meantime, was leaning against the companion, when
one of the natives went unperceived behind him, and struck him three or
four blows on the head with a tomahawk, which instantly killed him. The
cook, on seeing him attacked, ran to his assistance, but was immediately
murdered in the same manner.

"I now sat down on the jib-boom, with tears in my eyes, and trembling
with terror.

"Here I next saw the chief mate come running up the companion ladder,
but before he reached the deck he was struck on the back of the neck in
the same manner as the captain and the cook had been. He fell with the
blow, but did not die immediately.

"A number of the natives now rushed in at the cabin door, while others
jumped down through the skylight, and others were employed in cutting
the lanyards of the rigging of the stays. At the same time, four of our
crew jumped overboard off the foreyard, but were picked up by some
canoes that were coming from the shore, and immediately bound hand and

"The natives now mounted the rigging, and drove the rest of the crew
down, all of whom were made prisoners. One of the chiefs beckoned to me
to come to him, which I immediately did, and surrendered myself. We were
then put all together into a large canoe, our hands being tied; and the
New Zealanders, searching us, took from us our knives, pipes,
tobacco-boxes, and various other articles. The two dead bodies, and the
wounded mate, were thrown into the canoe along with us. The mate groaned
terribly, and seemed in great agony, the tomahawk having cut two inches
deep into the back of his neck; and all the while one of the natives,
who sat in the canoe with us, kept licking the blood from the wound with
his tongue. Meantime, a number of women who had been left in the ship
had jumped overboard, and were swimming to the shore, after having cut
her cable, so that she drifted, and ran aground on the bar near the
mouth of the river. The natives had not sense to shake the reefs out of
the sails, but had chopped them off along the yards with their
tomahawks, leaving the reefed part behind.

"The pigs, which we had bought from them, were, many of them, killed on
board, and carried ashore dead in the canoes, and others were thrown
overboard alive, and attempted to swim to the land; but many of them
were killed in the water by the natives, who got astride on their backs,
and then struck them on the head with their merys. Many of the canoes
came to the land loaded with plunder from the ship; and numbers of the
natives quarrelled about the division of the spoil, and fought and slew
each other. I observed, too, that they broke up our water-casks for the
sake of the iron hoops.

"While all this was going on, we were detained in the canoe; but at
last, when the sun was set, they conveyed us on shore to one of the
villages, where they tied us by the hands to several small trees. The
mate had expired before we got on shore, so that there now remained only
twelve of us alive. The three dead bodies were then brought forward, and
hung up by the heels to the branch of a tree, in order that the dogs
might not get at them. A number of large fires were also kindled on the
beach, for the purpose of giving light to the canoes, which were
employed all night in going backward and forward between the shore and
the ship, although it rained the greater part of the time.

"Gentle reader," Rutherford continues, "we will now consider the sad
situation we were in; our ship lost, three of our companions already
killed, and the rest of us tied each to a tree, starving with hunger,
wet, and cold, and knowing that we were in the hands of cannibals.

"The next morning, I observed that the surf had driven the ship over the
bar, and she was now in the mouth of the river, and aground near the end
of the village. Everything being now out of her, about ten o'clock in
the morning they set fire to her; after which they all mustered together
on an unoccupied piece of ground near the village, where they remained
standing for some time; but at last they all sat down except five, who
were chiefs, for whom a large ring was left vacant in the middle. The
five chiefs, of whom Aimy was one, then approached the place where we
were, and after they had stood consulting for some time, Aimy released
me and another, and, taking us into the middle of the ring, made signs
for us to sit down, which we did. In a few minutes, the other four
chiefs came also into the ring, bringing along with them four more of
our men, who were made to sit down beside us.

"The chiefs now walked backward and forward in the ring with their merys
in their hands, and continued talking together for some time, but we
understood nothing of what they said. The rest of the natives were all
the while very silent, and seemed to listen to them with great
attention. At length, one of the chiefs spoke to one of the natives who
was seated on the ground, and the latter immediately rose, and, taking
his tomahawk in his hand, went and killed the other six men who were
tied to the trees. They groaned several times as they were struggling in
the agonies of death, and at every groan the natives burst out in great
fits of laughter.

"We could not refrain from weeping for the sad fate of our comrades, not
knowing, at the same time, whose turn it might be next. Many of the
natives, on seeing our tears, laughed aloud, and brandished their merys
at us.

"Some of them now proceeded to dig eight large round holes, each about a
foot deep, into which they afterwards put a great quantity of dry wood,
and covered it over with a number of stones. They then set fire to the
wood, which continued burning till the stones became red hot. In the
meantime, some of them were employed in stripping the bodies of my
deceased shipmates, which they afterwards cut up, for the purpose of
cooking them, having first washed them in the river, and then brought
them and laid them down on several green boughs which had been broken
off the trees and spread on the ground, near the fires, for that

"The stones being now red hot, the largest pieces of the burning wood
were pulled from under them and thrown away, and some green bushes,
having been first dipped in water, were laid round their edges, while
they were at the same time covered over with a few green leaves. The
mangled bodies were then laid upon the top of the leaves, with a
quantity of leaves also strewed over them; and after this a straw mat
was spread over the top of each hole. Lastly, about three pints of water
were poured upon each mat, which, running through to the stones, caused
a great steam, and then the whole was instantly covered with earth.

"They afterwards gave us some roasted fish to eat, and three women were
employed in roasting fern-root for us. When they had roasted it, they
laid it on a stone, and beat it with a piece of wood, until it became
soft like dough. When cold again, however, it becomes hard, and snaps
like gingerbread. We ate but sparingly of what they gave us. After this
they took us to a house, and gave each of us a mat and some dried grass
to sleep upon. Here we spent the night, two of the chiefs sleeping along
with us.

"We got up next morning as soon as it was daylight, as did also the two
chiefs, and went and sat down outside the house. Here we found a number
of women busy in making baskets of green flax, into some of which, when
they were finished, the bodies of our messmates, which had been cooking
all night, were put, while others were filled with potatoes, which had
been prepared by a similar process.

"I observed some of the children tearing the flesh from the bones of our
comrades, before they were taken from the fires. A short time after this
the chiefs assembled, and, having seated themselves on the ground, the
baskets were placed before them and they proceeded to divide the flesh
among the multitude, at the rate of a basket among so many. They also
sent us a basket of potatoes and some of the flesh, which resembled
pork; but instead of partaking of it we shuddered at the very idea of
such an unnatural and horrid custom, and made a present of it to one of
the natives."

According to this account, the editor says, the attack made upon the
"Agnes" would seem to have been altogether unprovoked by the conduct
either of the captain or any of the crew; but we must not, in matters of
this kind, assume that we are in possession of the whole truth, when we
have heard the statement of only one of the parties. What may have been
the exact nature of the offence given to the natives in the present
case, the narrative we have just transcribed hardly gives us any data
even for conjecturing; unless we are to suppose that their vindictive
feelings were called forth by the manner in which their pilfering may
have been resented or punished, about which, however, nothing is said in
the account. But perhaps, after all, it is not necessary to refer
their hostility to any immediate cause of this kind. These savages had
probably many old injuries, sustained from former European visitors, yet
unrevenged; and, according to their notions, therefore, they had reason
enough to hold every ship that approached their coast an enemy, and a
fair subject for spoliation. It is lamentable that the conduct of
Europeans should have offered them an excuse for such conduct.

[Illustration: _Christchurch Museum_.

1. Club (_patu_) of wood, inlaid with _paua_ shell and carved.
2. Greenstone club (_mere pounanu_).
3. Club (_onewa_) of stone.
4. _Kotiate_ of wood or bone.]

The wanton cruelties committed upon these people by the commanders and
crews of many of the vessels that have been of late years in the habit
of resorting to their shores, are testified to, by too many evidences,
to allow us to doubt the enormous extent to which they have been
carried; and they are, at the same time, too much in the spirit of that
systematic aggression and violence, which even British sailors are apt
to conceive themselves entitled to practise upon naked and unarmed
savages, to make the fact of their perpetration a matter of surprise to
us. We must refer to Mr. Nicholas's book[H] for many specific instances
of such atrocities; but we may merely mention here that the conduct in
question is distinctly noticed and denounced in the strongest terms,
both in a proclamation by Governor Macquarie, dated the 9th of November,
1814, and also in another by Sir Thomas Brisbane, dated the 17th of
May, 1824. So strong a feeling, indeed, had been excited upon this
subject among the more respectable inhabitants of the English colony,
that, in the year 1814, a society was formed in Sydney Town, with the
Governor at its head, for the especial protection of the natives of the
South Sea Islands against the oppressions practised upon them by the
crews of European vessels.

The reports of the missionaries likewise abound in notices of the
flagrant barbarities by which, in New Zealand, as well as elsewhere, the
white man has signalised his superiority over his darker-complexioned
brother. But it may be enough to quote one of their statements, namely,
that within the first two or three years after the establishment of the
society's settlement at the Bay of Islands, not less than a hundred at
least of the natives had been murdered by Europeans in their immediate
neighbourhood. With such facts on record, it ought indeed to excite but
little of our surprise, that the sight of the white man's ship in their
horizon should be to these injured people in every district the signal
for a general muster, to meet the universal foe, and, if it may be
accomplished by force or cunning, to gratify the great passion of savage
life - revenge.

The circumstances of this attack are all illustrative of the New Zealand
character; and, indeed, the whole narrative is strikingly accordant
with the accounts we have from other sources of the manner in which
these savages are wont to act on such occasions, although there
certainly never has before appeared so minute and complete a detail of
any similar transaction. The gathering of the inland population by fires
lighted on the hills, the previous crowding and almost complete
occupation of the vessel, the sly and patient watching for the moment of
opportunity, the instant seizure of it when it came, the management of
the whole with such precision and skill, as in the case of the
"Boyd,"[I] and indeed in every other known instance, while the success
of the movement was perfect - this result was obtained without the
expense of so much as a drop of blood on the part of the assailants - all
these things are the uniform accompaniments of New Zealand treachery
when displayed in such enterprises.

The rule of military tactics among this people is, in the first place,
if possible, to surprise their enemies; and, in the second, to endeavour
to alarm and confound them. This latter is doubtless partly the purpose
of the song and dance, which form with them the constant prelude to the
assault, although these vehement expressions of passion operate also
powerfully as excitements to their own sanguinary valour and contempt
of death.

Rutherford's description of the violence with which they danced on board
the ship in the present case, immediately before commencing their attack
on the crew, reminds us strikingly, even by its expression, of the
account Crozet gives us, in his narrative of the voyage of M. Marion, of
their exhibitions of a similar sort even when they were only in sport.
"They would often dance," says he "with such fury when on board the ship
that we feared they would drive in our deck."

The alleged cannibalism of the New Zealanders is a subject that has
given rise to a good deal of controversy; and it has been even very
recently contended that the imputation, if not altogether unfounded, is
very nearly so, and that the horrid practice in question, if it does
exist among these people at all, has certainly never been carried beyond
the mere act of tasting human flesh, in obedience to some feeling of
superstition or frantic revenge, and even that perpetrated only rarely
and with repugnance.

Without attempting to theorise as to such a matter on the ground of such
narrow views as ordinary experience would suggest, we may here state
what the evidence is which we really have for the cannibalism of the New

Cook was the first who discovered the fact, which he did in his first
visit to the country. The strongest proof of all was that which was
obtained in Queen Charlotte Sound. Captain Cook having one day gone
ashore here, accompanied by Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, Tupia, and other
persons belonging to the ship, found a family of the natives employed in
dressing some provisions.

"The body of a dog," says Cook, "was at this time buried in their oven,
and many provision baskets stood near it. Having cast our eyes
carelessly into one of these as we passed it, we saw two bones pretty
cleanly picked, which did not seem to be the bones of a dog, and which,
upon a nearer examination, we discovered to be those of a human body. At
this sight we were struck with horror, though it was only a confirmation
of what we had heard many times since we arrived upon this coast. As we
could have no doubt but the bones were human, neither could we have any
doubt that the flesh which covered them had been eaten. They were found
in a provision-basket; the flesh that remained appeared manifestly to
have been dressed by fire, and in the gristles at the end were the marks
of the teeth which had gnawed them.

"To put an end, however, to conjecture founded upon circumstances and
appearances, we directed Tupia to ask what bones they were; and the
Indians, without the least hesitation, answered, the bones of a man.
They were then asked what was become of the flesh, and they replied
that they had eaten it; 'but,' said Tupia, 'why did you not eat the body
of the woman we saw floating upon the water?' 'The woman,' said they,
'died of disease; besides, she was our relation, and we eat only the
bodies of our enemies, who are killed in battle.'

"Upon inquiry who the man was whose bones we had found, they told us
that, about five days before, a boat belonging to their enemies came
into the bay, with many persons on board, and that this man was one of
seven whom they had killed.

"Though stronger evidence of this horrid practice prevailing among the
inhabitants of this coast will scarcely be required, we have still
stronger to give. One of us asked if they had any human bones with the
flesh remaining upon them; and upon their answering us that all had been
eaten, we affected to disbelieve that the bones were human, and said
that they were the bones of a dog; upon which one of the Indians, with
some eagerness, took hold of his own forearm, and thrusting it towards
us, said that the bone which Mr. Banks held in his hand had belonged to
that part of a human body; at the same time, to convince us that the
flesh had been eaten, he took hold of his own arm with his teeth, and
made a show of eating. He also bit and gnawed the bone which Mr. Banks
had taken, drawing it through his mouth, and showing by signs that it
had afforded a delicious repast. Some others of them, in a conversation
with Tupia next day, confirmed all this in the fullest manner; and they
were afterwards in the habit of bringing human bones, the flesh of which
they had eaten, and offering them to the English for sale."

When Cook was at the same place in November, 1773, in the course of his
second voyage, he obtained still stronger evidence of what he expressly
calls their "great liking for this kind of food," his former account of
their indulgence in which had been discredited, he tells us, by many.
Some of the officers of the ship having gone one afternoon on shore,
observed the head and bowels of a youth, who had been lately killed,
lying on the beach; and one of them, having purchased the head, brought
it on board. A piece of the flesh having then been broiled and given to
one of the natives, he ate it immediately in the presence of all the
officers and most of the men. Nothing is said of any aversion he seemed
to feel to the shocking repast. Nay, when, upon Cook's return on board,
for he had been at this time absent on shore, another piece of the flesh
was broiled and brought to the quarter-deck, that he also might be an
eye-witness of what his officers had already seen, one of the New
Zealanders, he tells us, "ate it with surprising avidity. This," he
adds, "had such an effect on some of our people as to make them sick."

Of the persons who sailed with Cook, no one seems eventually to have
retained a doubt as to the prevalence of cannibalism among these
savages. Mr. Burney, who had been long sceptical, was at last convinced
of the fact, by what he observed when he went to look after the crew of
the "Adventure's" boat who had been killed in Grass Cove; and both the
elder and the younger Forster, who accompanied Cook on his second
voyage, express their participation in the general belief. John Ledyard,
who was afterwards distinguished as an adventurous African traveller,
but who sailed with Cook in the capacity of a corporal of marines, bears
testimony to the same fact.

It thus appears that the testimony of those who have actually visited
New Zealand, in so far as it has been recorded, is unanimous upon this

To the authorities that have been already adduced, may be now added that
of Rutherford, whose evidence, both in the extract from his journal that
has been already given, and in other passages to which we shall
afterwards have occasion to refer, is in perfect accordance with the
statements of all preceding reporters entitled to speak upon the
subject. The facts that have been quoted would seem to show that the
eating of human flesh among this people is not merely an occasional
excess, prompted only by the phrenzy of revenge, but that it is actually
resorted to as a gratification of appetite, as well as of passion.

It is very probable, however, that the practice may have had its origin
in those vindictive feelings which mix, to so remarkable a degree, in
all the enmities and wars of these savages. This is a much more likely
supposition than that it originated in the difficulty of procuring other
food, in which case, as has been remarked, it could not well have, at
any time, sprung up either in New Zealand or in almost any other of the
countries in which it is known to prevail. Certain superstitious
notions, besides, which are connected with it among this people,
sufficiently indicate the motives which must have first led to it; for
they believe that, by eating their enemies, they not only dishonour
their bodies, but consign their souls to perpetual misery. This is
stated by Cook.

Other accounts, which we have from more recent authorities, concur in
showing that the person who eats any part of the body of another whom he
has slain in battle, fancies he secures to himself thereby a portion of
the valour or good fortune which had hitherto belonged to his dead
enemy. The most common occasion, too, on which slaves are slain and
eaten is by way of an offering to the "_mana_" of a chief or any of his
family who may have been cut off in battle.

All this would go to prove that the cannibalism of the New Zealanders
had, on its first introduction, been intimately associated with certain
feelings or notions which seemed to demand the act as a duty, and not
at all with any circumstances of distress or famine which compelled a
resort to it as a dire necessity. There is too much reason for
apprehending, however, that the unnatural repast, having ceased in this
way to be regarded with that disgust with which it is turned from by
every unpolluted appetite, has now become an enjoyment in which they not
unfrequently indulge without any reference to the considerations which
originally tempted them to partake of it. Indeed, such a result, instead
of being incredible or improbable, would appear to be almost an
inevitable consequence of the general and systematic perpetration, under
any pretext, of so daring an outrage upon Nature as that of which these
savages are, on all hands, allowed to be guilty.

The practice of cannibalism, which has prevailed among other nations as
well as the New Zealanders, has probably not had always exactly the same
origin. According to Mr. Mariner, it is of very recent introduction

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Online LibraryGeorge Lillie CraikJohn Rutherford, the White Chief → online text (page 2 of 13)