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The Trail Of Waitangi

Muskets and Cannibalism

(ii) Hongi's Expedition

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The success of Temorenga's expedition only stimulated the other tribes to war, and the chief Hongi became determined to make himself superior, and visited England in 1820 with the hope of obtaining muskets and powder. In England he soon found resistance to his plans, and he had to conceal what he was up to. When he obtained muskets he carefully put them away, and when he received presents he sold them in exchange for muskets.

Because of the resistance to his efforts in England, Hongi had become determined that it was his old friends, the missionaries in New Zealand that were hindering his efforts, and on his arrival back in the country his attitude had changed a lot. He influenced many people including lesser chiefs to side with him, buying their support for gifts of firearms, powder or money. They began to treat the missionaries with contempt, breaking down fences, walking into their houses when they pleased, stealing whatever they could lay their hands on, and demanding food. Great mischief was afoot, and Hongi's mind was full of very dark designs.

During his return trip to New Zealand Hongi had stayed in Sydney with an old friend, the Rev. Samuel Marsden. There he found four chiefs from the Waikato (Thames river area) who were heading to England as he himself had done. Mr Marsden was trying to persuade them against going, as of course did Hongi, for he was contemplating attacking these chiefs himself. Even while Hongi was living under the same roof as these chiefs and eating with them, he told one of them, Hinaki (the chief of a tribe living at Mokai on the Tamaki), to head back to New Zealand and prepare for war, as he was soon going to be attacked!

Hongi gathered about himself in the Bay of Islands a very formidable force. There were at least fifty canoes, and two thousand men, with a great number of muskets and an abundance of ammunition. The expedition intended to sweep the country in front of them, destroying men, women and children, without anyone being able to stand against them because of their lack of firearms. The missionaries tried in vain to stop them on their evil course.

The results of Hongi's expedition were fearful. There were powerful and mighty tribes on both sides of the Thames that were destroyed, and for many years the countryside was deserted. These tribes generally outnumbered Hongi's expedition, and rushed boldly into the battle being confident of winning, but upon firing on them Hongi soon had them in confusion and under his power.

Upon the return of this expedition there were many recorded instances of some of the most horrible and disgusting events that took place. Some people may have believed that cannibalism was not true, however the next extract is told for three reasons. First to show that it is not a myth, secondly to make people aware of the conditions from which the Gospel of Jesus Christ has brought mankind, not only from within Maoridom, but also from similar conditions throughout Europe, and thirdly that a true balance be given. ....


The above was collated from a string of events described in pages 23-35 of "Christianity Among The New Zealanders" by The Right Rev. William Williams, DCL. Bishop of Waiapu. (1867)


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