Samuel Marsden

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For the inaugural Bishop of Bathurst, see Samuel Marsden (bishop).
Samuel Bae Marsden
Samuel marsden.jpg
Born (1764-07-28)28 July 1764
Farsley, Yorkshire
Died 12 May 1838(1838-05-12) (aged 73)
Windsor, New South Wales
Education Magdalene College, Cambridge
Church Church of England
Ordained May 1793

Samuel Bae Marsden (28 June 1764 – 12 May 1838) was an English born Anglican cleric and a prominent member of the Church Missionary Society, believed to have introduced Christianity to New Zealand.

Marsden was a prominent figure in early New South Wales and Australian history, partly through his ecclesiastical offices as the colony's senior Anglican cleric, but also for his employment of convicts for farming and his actions as a magistrate at Parramatta, both of which have attracted contemporary criticism.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Marsden was born in Farsley, near Pudsey, Yorkshire in England, the son of a Wesleyan blacksmith turned farmer. After attending the village school, he spent some years assisting his father on the farm. In his early twenties, he won a scholarship from the Elland Clerical Society to train as an Anglican priest. After two years at free grammar school he attended Magdalene College, Cambridge,[1] where he was associated with the reformist William Wilberforce. While still studying, Marsden was offered the position of second chaplain to the Reverend Richard Johnson's ministry to the British colony of New South Wales on 1 January 1793. He married Elizabeth Fristan on 21 April 1793 and the following month was ordained by the Bishop of Exeter (having abandoned his degree).

Marsden travelled by convict ship to Australia, his eldest child Anne being born en route. Shortly after arrival in 1794 he set up house in Parramatta, 15 miles (24 km) outside the main Port Jackson settlement.

In Australia[edit]

In 1800 Marsden succeeded Johnson and became the senior Anglican minister in New South Wales; he would keep this post until his death.

Marsden was given grants of land by the colonial government and bought more of his own, which were worked with convict labour, a common practice in Australia at the time. By 1807 he owned 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land. Successful farming ventures provided him with a secure financial base, although they also formed a plank of contemporary criticism of Marsden for alleged over-involvement in non-church affairs.[citation needed] In 1809, Marsden was the first to ship wool to England from Australia; he is believed to have later introduced sheep to New Zealand, where he would develop a somewhat gentler reputation than in Australia.

Marsden was appointed to the Bench of Magistrates at Parramatta, a role that attracted criticism in his lifetime. History has remembered Marsden as the "Flogging Parson", with contemporaries claiming that he inflicted severe punishments (notably extended floggings), even by the standards of his day. This view of Marsden is disputed in some circles as part of an anti-clerical writing of history, in turn attributed to a dislike of Roman Catholics and the Irish.[citation needed]. General Joseph Holt, transported to Australia for his involvement in the 1798 United Irish Rebellion, left an account of a severe flogging of two Irish convicts which was purportedly ordered by Marsden. However, Holt never explicitly links Marsden to the flogging, and a careful reading of his memoirs shows the flogging of Fitzgerald was ordered in Sydney by the Judge Advocate, though later carried out in Parramatta.[2]

Marsden's attitudes to Irish Catholic convicts (including many who were transported to Australia for their role in the United Irish Rebellion) were illustrated in a memorandum which he sent to his Anglican church superiors during his time at Paramatta:

"The number of Catholic Convicts is very great... and these in general composed of the lowest class of the Irish nation; who are the most wild, ignorant and savage Race that were ever favoured with the light of Civilization; men that have been familiar with ... every horrid Crime from their Infancy. Their minds being Destitute of every Principle of Religion & Morality render them capable of perpetrating the most nefarious Acts in cool Blood. As they never appear to reflect upon Consequences; but to be ... always alive to Rebellion and Mischief, they are very dangerous members of Society. No Confidence whatever can be placed in them...

[If Catholicism in Australia] were tolerated they would assemble together from every Quarter, not so much from a desire of celebrating Mass, as to recite the Miseries and Injustice of their Banishment, the Hardships they suffer, and to enflame one another's minds with some wild Scheme of Revenge."[3]

Despite Marsden's opposition to Catholicism being practiced in Australia, Governor Phillip Gidley King eventually permitted monthly Catholic masses at Sydney from May 1803 onwards, although these were to take place under police surveillance.[4]

Early in 1804, Marsden christened the one-year-old George Lilly in St John's Cathedral, Parramatta. Lilly later became the noted pioneer of Melbourne, Portland and Auckland.

In 1806 Marsden was the originator of the New South Wales "Female Register", which classed all women in the colony (excepting some widows) as either 'married' or 'concubine'. Only marriages within the Church of England, including those celebrated by Marsden, were recognized as legitimate on this list; women who married in Catholic or Jewish ceremonies were automatically classed as concubines. The document eventually circulated within influential circles in London, and is believed to have influenced contemporary views of the Australian colony as a land of sexual immorality, some of which survived into 20th century historiography.[5]

In 1822 Marsden was dismissed from his civil post as a Parramatta magistrate (along with several other officials) on charges of exceeding his jurisdiction.

During his time at Parramatta, Marsden befriended many Māori visitors and sailors from New Zealand. He cared for them on his farm, providing accommodation, food, drink, work and an education for up to three years. He gave one Māori chief some land on which he could grow his own crops and taught other Māori to read and write English. He learnt Māori, beginning an English-Māori translation sheet of common words and expressions.[6]

Mission to New Zealand[edit]

Marsden was a member of the Church Missionary Society and remained formally based in New South Wales, but developed an interest in evangelizing New Zealand from the early 1800s onwards. Europeans had known of New Zealand since the 1640s and by the early 19th century there had been increasing contact between Māori and Europeans, mainly by the many whalers and sealers around the coast of New Zealand and especially in the Bay of Islands. A small community of Europeans had formed in the Bay of Islands, made up of explorers, flax traders, timber merchants, seamen, and ex-convicts who had served their sentences in Australia (as well as some who had escaped the Australian penal system). Marsden was concerned that they were corrupting the Māori way of life, and lobbied the Church Missionary Society successfully to send a mission to New Zealand.

Lay missionaries John King, William Hall and Thomas Kendall were chosen for the New Zealand mission in 1809, but it was not until 14 November 1814[7] that Marsden took his brig, the "Active" (captained by Thomas Hansen), on an exploratory journey to the Bay of Islands with Kendall and Hall, during which time he conducted the first Christian service on New Zealand soil during Christmas Day 1814. The service was spoken in English which was translated by Ruatara to the 400-strong Māori congregation. He met Māori rangatira (chiefs) from the Ngāpuhi iwi (tribe), who controlled the region around the Bay of Islands, including the chief Ruatara who had lived with him in Australia, and a junior war leader, Hongi Hika, who had helped pioneer the introduction of the musket to Māori warfare in the previous decade. Hongi Hika returned with them to Australia on 22 August.

At the end of the year Kendall, Hall and King returned to start a mission to the Ngāpuhi under Ruatara's (and, later, Hongi Hika's) protection in the Bay of Islands. Hongi Hika returned with them, bringing a large number of firearms from Australia for his warriors.

A mission station was founded with a base at Rangihoua Bay, later moved to Kerikeri, (where the mission house and stone store can still be seen), and ultimately a model farming village at Te Waimate. The mission would struggle on for a decade before attracting converts, in competition with Wesleyan and Catholic missions. Thomas Kendall abandoned his wife for the daughter of a Māori tohunga (priest), and also flirted with Maori traditional religion.

The Rev. Marsden was in the Bay of Islands in May 1820 when HMS Coromandel, under the command of Captain Downie, arrived at the Bay of Islands from England for the purpose of procuring a cargo of timber in the Firth of Thames. When Coromandel sailed for the Thames a few days later, Reverend Marsden accompanied them on their voyage. Downie reported that while at the Bay of Islands whalers were in the practice of trading muskets and ammunition for pork and potatoes.[8]

In 1820 Hongi Hika and Thomas Kendall travelled to England on the whaling ship the New Zealander.[9] Hongi Hika met King George IV, who gifted him a suit of armour; he also obtained further muskets when passing through Sydney on his return to New Zealand. On his return to the Bay of Islands, Ngāpuhi demanded the Church Missionary Society missionaries trade muskets for food, which under Kendall became an important means of support for the Kerikeri mission station. The trade was opposed by Marsden, largely because of its impact on the wide-ranging inter-tribal warfare occurring amongst Māori at the time.

For refusing to stop trading arms, Kendall was dismissed by the Church Missionary Society in 1822. Marsden, who also knew of Kendall's romantic affair, returned to New Zealand in August 1823 to sack him in person. When Marsden and Kendall sailed from the Bay of Islands, their ship the Brampton was wrecked.[10] Marsden later went to some trouble talking to all Australian printers to prevent Kendall from publishing a Māori grammar book, apparently largely out of spite.

Marsden is generally remembered favourably in New Zealand, which he visited seven times (the longest trip lasting seven months). The Anglican school, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Karori, Wellington and also (more recently) in Whitby, Porirua were named after Marsden. Houses at King's College (Marsden House) and at Corran School for Girls (Marsden) are also both named after him.

In 1819 Samuel Marsden introduced winegrowing to New Zealand with the planting of over 100 different varieties of vine in Kerikeri, Northland. He wrote:

"New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine as far as I can judge at present of the nature of the soil and climate"

Later life[edit]

It was on Marsden's last visit to the Reverend Henry Stiles at St Matthew's Church at Windsor when he succumbed to an incipient chill and died at the rectory on May the 12th in 1838.[11]

Marsden is buried beside his old church at Parramatta, St John's.[12]

In fiction and popular culture[edit]

The Australian poet Kenneth Slessor wrote a satirical poem criticizing the reverend, Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden.[13]

A portrait of Marsden based on Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore appears in Patrick O'Brian's book The Nutmeg of Consolation.

In the 1978 Australian television series Against the Wind, Marsden was portrayed by David Ravenswood.

Reggae band 1814 took their name from the year that Marsden held the first sermon in the Bay of Islands.[14]

See also[edit]

Paul-Antoine Léonard de Villefeix

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Samuel Marsden biography from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Marsden, Samuel (MRSN790S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Joseph Holt, Thomas Crofton Croker (ed.), Memoirs of Joseph Holt: General of the Irish Rebels, in 1798 (London: H. Colburn, 1838), vol II, at pp. 119-122.[1]
  3. ^ Samuel Marsden, "A Few Observations on the Toleration of the Catholic Religion in New South Wales", memorandum, cited in Hughes, p. 188
  4. ^ Hughes, p. 190
  5. ^ Hughes, pp. 247-248
  6. ^ He Korero. A Jones and K Jenkins. Huia 2011.
  7. ^ Source: J.R. Elder, ed., The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden 1765-1838, Dunedin: Coulls Somerville Wilkie, 1932, pp.93-94.>
  8. ^ "HMS Coromandel". Early shipping in New Zealand waters. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "New Zealander". Early shipping in New Zealand waters. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Brampton". Early shipping in New Zealand waters. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  11. ^ A T Yarwood, Samuel Marsden: the great survivor, CarIton 1977, 279
  12. ^ http://english.stjohnscathedral.org.au/index.php/about-us-/our-heritage#cemetery
  13. ^ - Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden allpoetry.com
  14. ^ 1814 - Reggae runnings in Aotearoa, New Zealand niceup.org.nz