MARSDEN, Samuel (1764-1838)


MARSDEN, Samuel (1764-1838)
early clergyman and missionary to New Zealand
was born at Farsley, Yorkshire, England, on 28 July 1764. (Jnl and Proc. R.A.H.S., vol. IX, p. 79). His father, Thomas Marsden, was a blacksmith and small farmer. Marsden had only an elementary education and when he grew up assisted his father at his work. When he was 21 his thoughts turned to the ministry, and between 1787 and 1793 he received help from the Elland Clerical Society. which had a fund for the education of young men of good character without the means to fit themselves for entering the church. Marsden had a course of preliminary study under the Rev. E. Storrs and the Rev. Miles Atkinson. both of Leeds, and then proceeded to Hull grammar school. In 1790 he became a sizar of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and there he remained for two and a half years, leaving without a degree to accept the position of assistant chaplain in New South Wales. His commission was dated 1 January 1793; on the following 24 May he was ordained deacon, and two days later priest. He had married on 21 April, Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas Fristan, and on 1 July they sailed on the William which arrived at Sydney on 10 March 1794. Marsden made his home at Parramatta, but early in 1795 Lieutenant-governor Paterson (q.v.) sent him to Norfolk Island, then being administered by Captain King (q.v.). The visit had far-reaching consequences because King had been much impressed by the intelligence of two young Maoris who had been kidnapped and brought to the island, in the hope that they might be able to give instruction in preparing flax which grew there luxuriantly. His account of the young men interested Marsden very much, but many years were to pass before he was able to visit New Zealand. In September 1795 he returned to New South Wales, and in the same month Captain Hunter (q.v.) began his duties as governor.
Neither Johnson (q.v.), the first clergyman, nor Marsden had received any support from Lieut.-governors Grose (q.v.) and Paterson (q.v.). Hunter did his best to combat the evil influences at work in the settlement, and Marsden's influence on the life of the colony was increasingly felt. Writing to a friend in December 1796 he said "I have much to occupy my time, and a great variety of duties to perform. I am a gardener, a farmer, a magistrate, a minister, so that when one duty does not call, another does. In this infant colony there is plenty of manual labour for everybody. I conceive it a duty to all to take an active part. He who will not labour must not eat. Now is our harvest time. Yesterday I was in the field assisting getting my wheat. To-day I was sitting in the civil court hearing the complaints of the people. To-morrow, if well, must ascend the pulpit and preach to my people. In this manner I chiefly spend my time". (Jnl and Proc. R.A.H.S., vol. XII, p. 263). Marsden had been given a grant of 100 acres soon after his arrival, with the use of convict labour, and showed himself to be an excellent farmer. Later on he was given further grants of land and took an interest in sheep-breeding, and though his efforts may not be compared with those of Macarthur (q.v.), his experiments were of great use in the early development of the wool industry. In 1806 he owned some 1400 sheep out of the 21,400 in the colony, and had nearly 3000 acres of land. After the Rev. Richard Johnson left the colony in 1800 Marsden carried on the chaplain's work single-handed for several years, and when later on he came in conflict with Governor Macquarie (q.v.) indignantly denied that his farming operations had in any way interfered with the carrying out of his clerical duties. This is borne out in the report made to the British house of commons by J. T. Bigge (q.v.) in 1823. Marsden's duties as a magistrate, however, were less in keeping with his office. He ordered floggings for what would in the present day be considered minor offences, and though not mentioned by name, he was evidently "the clerical magistrate of another creed" who awarded the "scourge to Irish catholics for refusing to enter the protestant churches . . . the plea to be sure, was obstinacy and disobedience" (W. Ullathorne (q.v.) The Catholic Mission in Australasia, p. 9). Marsden considered he was doing his duty, it was a cruel and intolerant age, and he was not in advance of his time. His own view was that he was a strict but not a severe magistrate. He said "I conceive there is a very material difference between severity and strictness . . . I ever considered that the certainty of punishment operated more powerfully upon the mind of the delinquent than the severity of punishment; and upon this principle I acted. . . . A magistrate has a duty which he owes to the public as well as to the delinquents, and he is not justified in remitting punishments where the safety and well-being of the community call for their infliction" (An Answer to Certain Calumnies, p. 38). As a magistrate Marsden was trusted by the successive governors, and on more than one occasion important commissions were entrusted to him, such as the investigation into the conditions and grievances of settlers in 1798.
In 1807 Marsden and his wife visited England. There he was able to bring before the authorities the need for more clergy in Australia, and when news of the deposition of Bligh (q.v.) reached England, Marsden's knowledge of the local conditions must have been very useful. He returned to Australia in the Anne on 27 February 1810, having as fellow passenger the Rev. Robert Cartwright. He had also enlisted the services of the Rev. William Cowper (q.v.), who arrived about the same time. Soon after Marsden's arrival he unfortunately quarrelled with Governor Macquarie who had recently arrived at Sydney. The governor was anxious to raise the status of convicts who had served their time, and one course he took was the appointing of some of them to the magistracy. Marsden was appointed one of the commissioners of public roads as were also certain of the new magistrates. Marsden considered that to sit with these men would be a "degradation of his office as senior chaplain", and asked that he might be allowed to decline the office. Both men were determined and a breach occurred between them that was never healed. However, a very important development in Marsden's work was shortly to begin that made these differences for the time being less important. Some of the South Sea missionaries who had been driven off the islands came to Sydney and were befriended by Marsden before his voyage to England. On the way out he found a young Maori chief called Duaterra on the Anne whom he took to his home at Parramatta. This revived his interest in the Maoris and the establishing of New Zealand missions. On account of the massacre of the crew of the ship Boyd, Macquarie at first would not allow any missionaries to sail for New Zealand. Marsden revived the question in 1814, and having bought a ship, two missionaries, Hall and Kendall, sailed for the Bay of Islands with a message to Duaterra who met them when they arrived. Hall and Kendall returned to Sydney in August, and on 28 November Marsden went to New Zealand to establish the mission permanently. When Marsden arrived he decided that the quarrel which had arisen out of the Boyd massacre, between the people of Whangaroa and those of the Bay of Islands must be brought to an end. Marsden with another of his party, J. L. Nicholas, went to the camp of the Whangaroa natives and spent the night with them. Marsden has recorded that he "did not sleep much during the night". Both men were completely at the Maoris' mercy but next day their courage was rewarded. Presents were distributed and the goodwill of the natives was gained. Marsden made six more journeys to New Zealand, and travelled much in the North Island, suffering many hardships, dangers and anxieties, not the least of these arising from the necessity of discharging men who had shown themselves unsuitable for the missionary life. He showed great sympathy with the Maoris and much tolerance and breadth of view. The Maori chiefs admired his courage, and Marsden became an unofficial forerunner for the subsequent taking over of New Zealand by the British.
In Sydney Marsden's relations with Macquarie continued to be unsatisfactory. He declined reading a general order from the governor in church relating to the settlers bringing grain to the government stores, on the ground that it was irregular and improper to read such orders in churches. Despairing of getting the government to provide proper accommodation for the convicts, and especially the women at Parramatta, he sent a copy of his correspondence with the governor to England. Early in 1818 Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services were dispensed with. He might have hoped for peace when Brisbane (q.v.) became governor in November 1821, but Marsden was of too independent a cast of mind to be always in agreement with the authorities. He was fined £10 2s. 6d. because he had permitted his convict servant to do some honest work in his leisure hours. He refused to pay and an execution was put in his house; but the indomitable Marsden brought an action against the magistrates in the supreme court for £250 damages. He was awarded £10 2s. 6d., the judge holding that the trespass complained of was committed under an honest mistake of law. Marsden undoubtedly acted under a sense of duty—and in regard to this and other acts of his it must have been gratifying to him to be informed in 1825, that the home authorities having taken into consideration his "long and useful services in New South Wales" had increased his salary to £400 a year. In 1826 he published his An Answer to Certain Calumnies in the late Governor Macquarie's Pamphlet and the Third Edition of Mr Wentworth's Account of Australasia, an able defence of his conduct in Australia. Shortly before this he had written to the Rev. J. Pratt of the Church Missionary Society inquiring the amount of the cost of his education by the Elland Society, and stating his intention of forwarding £50 a year until this was paid off. He had his private sorrows, for two sons died in infancy as the result of accidents, and his wife had a long illness before her death in 1835. Marsden, though in ill-health and 73 years of age, made his last visit to New Zealand in 1837 accompanied by his youngest daughter, and was everywhere received with great affection. A certain roughness and bluntness noticeable in his Youth had given way in old age to kindliness and serenity. He died on 12 May 1838 and was buried at Parramatta. A son and five daughters survived him. One of them, Jane, married her cousin Thomas Marsden, and their son, Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), was Bishop of Bathurst, New South Wales, from 1869 to 1885.
J. R. Elder, The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden; J. A. Ferguson, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. IX, pp. 78-112; Rev. W. Woolls, A Short Account of the Character and Labours of the Rev. Samuel Marsden; Rev. J. B. Marsden, Life and Work of Samuel Marsden, 1913, Ed. by J. Drummond; S. M. Johnstone, Samuel Marsden; A. H. Reed, Marsden of Maoriland; J. R. Elder, Marsden's Lieutenants; E. Ramsden, Marsden and the Missions; James S. Hassall, In Old Australia, pp. 136-72. See also the many references to Marsden in early volumes of the Historical Records of Australia and Historical Records of N.S.W., and the bibliographies at the end of Ferguson's paper, and Johnstone's biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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