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The Christian missionaries

To better carry out this essential task, Henry argued that mission members needed to spend more time learning the Maori language, preaching to the tribes in the surrounding area, and teaching in the schools on the mission stations; to do all these things most of the personnel would have to be concentrated in one place. Paihia became the headquarters and there the missionaries began by devoting regular amounts of time to learning Maori together. The arrival of Henry's brother William, in 1826, gave a great impetus to this programme: all members benefited from William's talent for languages. Having more missionaries at one station meant that they were able to visit the surrounding villages more frequently and, as they became proficient in Maori, their preaching was more effective. Schooling for Maori children was revitalised under Henry and his wife, Marianne, and more students attended classes regularly. Working effectively together fostered harmonious relations among the missionaries themselves; Henry claimed that the Maori noticed their greater unity and purpose.
Henry Williams's forceful personality and discipline were perhaps as important as his policies in reorganising the mission, and these characteristics also contributed to his growing mana among the Maori. Although his capacity to comprehend the indigenous culture was severely constrained by his evangelical Christianity, his obduracy was in some ways an advantage in dealings with the Maori. From the time of his arrival he refused to be intimidated by the threats and boisterous actions of utu and muru plundering parties. By the late 1820s he felt confident enough to intervene in intertribal disputes and on several occasions was able to negotiate peace between hostile groups. Such peacemaking was both a cause and a consequence of his growing prestige among the Maori. Only a person who was held in regard would be invited to settle a conflict, and it required even greater mana to be successful. As his personal repute grew, so did the influence of the mission.
The 1830s were a decade of achievement and progress for Henry Williams and the CMS mission. Success could be measured in two ways: increasing numbers of Maori were baptised, and the Bay of Islands mission was secure enough to provide a base for expansion throughout the North Island. There had been occasional baptisms in earlier years, but, beginning in 1829–30, several Maori adults and children were baptised at Paihia. By 1842 over 3,000 Maori in the Bay of Islands area had been baptised. No doubt Maori motives for 'going missionary' were often mixed and there was considerable backsliding in later years, but, as Maori conversions increased, the missionaries were successful, at least in their own terms. Their growing confidence in the north enabled them to extend their operations to the south. Here, too, Henry Williams played a leading role. He made several trips to other parts of the North Island to explore the possibilities for expansion, and directed the establishment of new missions. He sent missionaries to begin work at several places in the Waikato during the 1830s, his brother William moved to Turanga, in Poverty Bay, at the end of the decade, and stations were founded as far south as Otaki. By 1840 Henry could look with considerable satisfaction on the achievements of the CMS mission since his arrival in 1823.
But 1840 was also a year of major changes, both for New Zealand and, although he did not appreciate it immediately, for Henry Williams. With the country's annexation by Britain and a growing population of settlers, Henry became embroiled in racial conflict and caught up by forces that were beyond his control. Rather than simply ministering to one race, he was drawn into the increasingly uncomfortable role of mediating between two races.
The ambiguity of his position was apparent at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Henry translated the English draft of the treaty into Maori, and, at the meetings with the Crown's representative, William Hobson, at Waitangi, he explained its provisions to Maori leaders. Later he travelled to the west coast of the North Island, between Wellington and Wanganui, and to the Marlborough Sounds to persuade other Maori to sign the treaty. However, his Maori version of the treaty was not a literal translation from the English draft and did not convey clearly the cession of sovereignty. Moreover, in his discussions with Maori leaders Henry placed the treaty in the best possible light and this, and his mana, were major factors in the treaty's acceptance. Undoubtedly, therefore, he must bear some of the responsibility for the failure of the Treaty of Waitangi to provide the basis for peaceful settlement and a lasting understanding between Maori and European.
As Maori-European relations deteriorated in the north in the early 1840s, Henry Williams tried to maintain peace between the races, as he had done earlier between tribes. In spite of his efforts the conflict over land and sovereignty soon moved beyond the possibility of compromise. Having failed to prevent hostilities he assisted the wounded and helped evacuate the beleaguered settlers when Hone Heke launched a final attack on Kororareka in 1845. His close association with the Bay of Islands Maori produced accusations of disloyalty from Europeans, while the stationing of British troops at the Waimate mission created suspicion in the minds of some Maori. Other Maori accused him of misleading them in his explanations of the treaty. Throughout the conflict, as in later life, Henry asserted that his missionary vocation was paramount and that his primary concern was for the Maori, but it was difficult to be single-minded when he was assailed from all sides.

Like many things at the time, Christianity – in the form of the Church Missionary Society – came to New Zealand via Australia. Historian James Belich described the Christian missionaries as the 'agents of virtue in a world of vice' – a world the British Resident, Jame Busby, described as 'frontier chaos'.

Although not immune to moral blemish themselves, these men and women went to extraordinary lengths to bring Christianity and 'civilisation' to Maori. The early years were largely unsuccessful for missionaries in terms of saving souls; as points of contact for trade as well as a source of new ideas, missionaries had a profound impact on many Maori communities. Their introduction of the written word and the development of a written Maori language represented a massive change.

The work of Henry Williams

Henry Williams
By 1823 three Church Missionary Society (CMS) stations had been established in the Bay of Islands, and Henry Williams took over the leadership of the society's operations in New Zealand.
Williams, who had been ordained a priest in 1822 'for the cure of souls in his majesty's foreign possessions', inherited a mission beset by problems. Not a single Maori had been converted, and the missionaries were still largely dependent on Maori for food and supplies. Under the leadership of Thomas Kendall and John Butler, the mission had been torn apart by bitter personal disputes.
Williams sought to limit the mission's involvement with the traders at Kororareka and to reduce the dependence on Maori for supplies. Determined to end the musket trade, he imposed regulations on the missionaries' trading. Under his direction, the schooner Herald was completed in 1826, and this made the mission independent of local influences.

Henry Williams spreading the word
Unlike Samuel Marsden, Williams believed too much time and energy had been devoted to teaching 'useful arts and agriculture' as a prelude to conversion. He reorganised the mission so that more time was devoted to spiritual teaching.
To achieve this, mission members needed to spend more time learning the Maori language, preaching in the surrounding area and teaching in the mission schools. Staff were concentrated at Paihia where the missionaries had regular Maori lessons together. Henry Williams was boosted by the arrival of his brother, William, in 1826. William had a great talent for languages.
The increased proficiency in Maori language and the revitalisation of schooling for Maori children began to pay dividends.
The 1830s was a decade of achievement and progress for the CMS mission. By 1842 over 3000 Maori in the Bay of Islands had been baptised. Whether the years of warfare had taken their toll or the patience and perseverance of the missionaries was finally paying off, for Williams the baptisms were a clear measure of success after many fruitless years. Increasingly, missionaries began to take the gospel outside the Far North.
Although Maori reasons for baptism were mixed and there was considerable backsliding in later years, by 1840 Henry Williams had reason to feel a great sense of satisfaction about his efforts since 1823.

Missionary women

Men such as Marsden stressed the importance of the Christian family in helping to spread the word. While they may have gained the fame (and in some cases notoriety), many missionary wives worked tirelessly in helping with the day-to-day work of the mission in New Zealand. Marianne Williams, for instance, played a key role in the revitalisation of missionary schools.

Printing the word of God - missionaries

From the mid-1830s the printed word became a new weapon in the campaign to bring Christianity to Maori. In 1835 the Church Missionary Society (CMS) printer, William Colenso, printed a Maori translation of the Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to the Ephesians. With the first New Zealand publication under his belt, Colenso then produced 5000 copies of William Williams's Maori New Testament, quickly followed by 27,000 copies of the Book of Common Prayerin Maori. By 1840 Colenso had produced over 74,000 books and pamphlets.
The Catholic Mission at Kororareka was equally prolific. In October 1842, 6000 handmade copies of the 648-page Ko te ako me te karakia o te hahi Katorika Romana (The teachings and prayers of the Roman Catholic Church) were produced.
These publications attracted much interest among Maori and increased the authority and extent of missionary influence. Maori increasingly recognised the printed word and literacy as sources of Pakeha wealth and mana and as essential skills that they needed to acquire in order to survive and prosper in the post-contact world.
The missionaries clearly paved the way for European colonisation and were instrumental in Britain's decision to offer Maori a treaty in 1840. The Treaty of Waitangi challenged Maori in terms of their newly acquired skills of literacy. It also opened the floodgates for European settlement and changed the face of New Zealand in a way unimaginable a generation before.